The John Kline Re-election Playbook is all about The Selling of Chairman John Kline … in hopes that voters don’t recognize the Real John Kline.
The Real John Kline is willing to use the nation’s full faith and credit as a hostage for political demands (hence student loan rates are increased thanks to Chairman Kline’s bill), shutting down the government (over Affordable Healthcare), attempting to undermine policies that have been lawfully enacted (Healthy School Meals), encouraging the Senate to block nominees not on the basis of their qualifications but to nullify the policies they would pursue (National Labor Relations Board nominees), and using the Budget and Appropriations Committee as a final weapon of mass obstruction (denying funding for Pell Grants).
The Selling of Chairman John Kline is a “bucket list” … and this week, another checkmark was applied to that “bucket list”.
It is one subject that even in the Kline TeleTown Hall meetings gets asked about
West St. Paul woman wondering about infrastructure priorities. #KlineTTH
— John Kline (@repjohnkline) April 22, 2014
Yeah, we know that “earmarks” are verboten … thus Chairman Kline can easily tell local communities that “I will continue to do what I can to ensure our shared goal of safety for neighbors and travelers” … thus this week, a press release concerning a meeting on the Highway 52 and County Road 9 overpass … with these words stinging out — “if funding became available.”
Funding being available should be an immediate priority in the House …
Based on current spending and revenue trends, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund will encounter a shortfall in AUGUST.
The Department of Transportation has projected that without funding the Highway Trust Fund could mean the delay of about 112,000 roadway projects and 5,600 transit projects – and cost the economy as many as 700,000 construction jobs in the next year.
That will put state and local projects on a “life supports” … another example of the political games that the Real John Kline plays (this soon could be added to the list above) … unless John Kline does something about it.
Thus far, the talk was the worst of political theatre … Republican leadership offered the idea of eliminating Saturday regular mail delivery 10 years of postal savings for one year of infrastructure (actually only through May 2015) … here is the Republican leadership’s memo … in which they recognize the problem in their explanation of why there is a shortfall …
The primary revenue source for the Highway Trust Fund is the federal excise tax on gasoline and diesel sales, which currently is 18.4 cents a gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel.
The current rates were set in 1993.
Since that time, motor vehicle fuel efficiency has increased significantly, in part driven by federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards imposed on auto manufacturers.
In addition, slower than average economic growth since the 2008-2010 recession has contributed to reductions in miles travelled. Because fuel consumption has declined since 1993 but federal spending on road construction has increased, the dedicated tax for the program no longer brings in sufficient revenues to support the current level of spending from the trust fund.
Had the gas tax simply been pegged to inflation, it would be at least 30 cents today. But it remains where it has been for over 20 years.
So Republicans understand the problem … they just do not have good solutions.
Eric Cantor wrote a memo to House Republicans last week calling the “Post Office” proposal, “the best way to ensure continued funding of highway projects in a fiscally responsible manner.”
Other ideas that the House Republicans are toying with involve your pension.
The House could increase Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation premiums which guarantees the pensions of workers with defined benefit retirement plans … but that is meeting resistance from business groups …
“The PBGC premiums are unfortunately always on the table whenever there’s a need for revenue to be raised,” said Christina Crooks, tax policy director for the National Association of Manufacturers. “We just want to let Congress know they can’t continue raising the PBGC premiums and not expect manufacturers to be hurt at the end of the day.”
Or, a possibility of “pension smoothing” which would result in companies contributing less to pension plans, thereby paying more in taxes. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and other fiscal hawks have derided the maneuver as a budgeting “gimmick.”
But there is one idea that makes sense … and it is being considered in the Senate.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) has offered a plan to raise the fuel excise taxes by 12 cents over the next two years based on 6-cent increase slated for next year and another 6 cents the following year. The tax would then be pegged to inflation to avoid future shortfalls.
Yeah, an excise tax … a user tax … doesn’t that make sense.
Corker, a developer, former Chattanooga mayor and one-time state finance commissioner, said he comes from a conservative state and considers himself a conservative as well.
“What I’ve learned … is that if something’s worth having, it’s worth paying for,” Corker said in a conference call with reporters. “What I’ve watched up here take place — time and time again — people huff and puff about spending and those types of things.”
But when it comes to something popular, Corker said, lawmakers “on the left and the right, I hate to say, are willing to throw our kids under the bus … through increased indebtedness to allow something popular to them to exist that day.”
Congress has “played chicken” on transportation and other important programs since 2008, Corker charged.
Ouch … the truth hurts.
Senator Corker’s plan is similar to one of the proposals mentioned in the Minnesota Transportation Alliance review of our needs and funding options.
Will John Kline embrace this Republican proposal ?
Or, will he listen to Club for Growth President Chris Chocola, who issued a statement calling the plan “a $164 billion tax increase, plain and simple.”
The solution is to “devolve highway funding to the states and let them fund their own infrastructure needs,” Chocola said.
Why not tell John Kline what you think by signing the Minnesota Transportation Alliance petition ?