WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the conference committee tasked with working through the differences between the House and Senate versions of the highway bill, today voted against a legislative package that includes a two-year highway bill reauthorization, extends flood insurance and prevents government-subsidized student loan rates from doubling.
On the overall legislation, Hatch said: “With our debt closing in on $16 trillion, this bill spends too much money that we simply don’t have. While I certainly appreciate the work put into this legislation, I believe we have to do much more to right our nation’s fiscal ship.”
On the highway portion of the legislative package Hatch said: “I appreciate the hard-work and effort everyone has put in to try to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions of the highway bill. Unfortunately, we haven’t moved nearly far enough. First off, I’m disappointed with the absence of the job-creating Keystone XL pipeline. With our economy as weak as it is, this is the kind of shovel-ready project we should all embrace. Furthermore, the revenue provisions are nothing more than a short-term band-aid to the greater issue of how we fix highway program financing so we aren’t back in this same position a year or two from now. The revenue title kicks the can down the road, failing to put the Highway Trust Fund on a sustainable path forward. In addition, this package uses some 10 year offsets to pay for just over two years of spending. It is simply nonsensical to pay for this measure for at least eight years after it expires. Given the grave fiscal challenges of our nation I simply cannot, in good faith, support this legislation.”
On the student loan portion, Hatch said: “It’s unfortunate that Democrats refused to use wasteful ObamaCare funding to pay for this legislation. The bigger issue remains of how do we help young people get jobs, thrive and succeed in the weak economy. The President’s answer of higher taxes is not the answer, in my opinion. It’s time we work to get our economy back on track so we can create jobs for all Americans.”
Hatch cited concern over the following provisions in the highway portion of the package:
- Since 2008, general fund money has been transferred to the Highway Trust Fund three times, with a total amount of $29.7 billion being transferred. This conference report once again legislates a massive general fund transfer of nearly $19 billion over only two years.
- The revenue title to the Conference Report does not put the Highway Trust Fund on a sustainable path going forward but instead kicks the can of insolvency down the road another two years. This conference report will put the nation in a bigger fiscal hole in only two years than the one we are in now.
- The “user-pays” principal is further weakened by this conference report. The Highway Trust Fund was specifically created to ensure that the users of our nation’s interstate highway system paid for its construction. By moving further away from this principal, we are weakening the link between important government functions and the dedicated funding sources that sustain those functions.
- Though the conference report spends money over 2 years and three months, it claims money that might not be collected by the government for another 10 years. This means the taxpayers will pay be paying for this bill for at least eight years after it expires.
- The legislation makes costly and permanent changes to pension law to pay for a two-year transportation bill and a one-year student loan patch.
The Finance Committee is responsible for the revenue title of the Highway bill, which Hatch opposed when the Committee considered it earlier this year citing the tax increases and the need for broader structural reforms to the underlying highway program. During the committee mark up, Hatch offered an alternative that would have allowed the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward and that would have opened more American energy resources both on and off shore to fund the bill. That amendment was ruled nongermane and out of the scope of the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction.