Busy highway

How States Compensate for Less Federal Transportation Funding

In Kenneth Orski’s latest Innovation Brief, Orski explains what the states have done to buffer themselves from the effects of less transportation funding from the federal government — and it’s not the dire picture being painted by big spenders in Washington: 

While transportation stakeholders and the Washington press corps are focusing on the impending Highway Trust Fund shortfall and the emerging House-Senate consensus to “patch” the Fund with $10.8 billion in short-term funding until May 2015, they are ignoring developments outside the Beltway that go a long way to compensate for the lack of an assurance of long-term federal funding.  For in fact, individual states, far from sitting idly by, are responding to the current fiscal uncertainties in Washington by stepping up and raising additional revenue to meet their transportation needs. 

Twenty-eight states have launched transportation-related revenue initiatives according to surveys by the American Road and Builders Association (ARTBA), the National Council of State Legislatures and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Collectively, these measures are generating billions of additional dollars for state and local transportation programs and providing a buffer against the possibility of delayed federal reimbursements and inadequate federal funding.

State officials we have talked to are quick to remind that “we cannot do it all” and that all levels of government, including the federal government, should share in the cost of maintaining and improving the nation’s highways.  But they concede that the recent revenue initiatives by various state legislatures are helping to relieve concerns about a slowdown in highway construction and cushion the impact of any eventual reduction in federal funding.   

 

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Ex-Im Bank: “Unjustified, Inefficient Corporate Welfare”

Many Americans may not have heard of the Export-Import Bank — a fact frequently noted by the media — but the fight over whether or not to renew the Bank’s charter before it expires in September is a pivotal one in Washington this year. Politicians’ stance on the issue will serve as a litmus test for their commitment to Main Street rather than well connected special interests.

The good news, as NPR reports, is that Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is leading the charge against the Bank’s reauthorization.

With Hensarling and other top House Republican leaders ready to kill the bank, it may be difficult for the bank to get the votes it needs to stay in business.

Why are they so staunchly opposed? Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus center describes the Bank this way, and explains why anyone who really understands how the Bank works should oppose it:

We don’t agree on much in Washington. But given all of the economic and social problems our nation faces, everyone should agree that the federal government should not direct our limited public resources primarily to wealthy, politically connected corporations. This is what the Export-Import Bank does.

Some say that there are good reasons to continue doing this. They say that the bank, known as the Ex-Im Bank, promotes U.S. exports, protects jobs and is a good deal for taxpayers. None of these arguments withstand scrutiny.

And Daniel Boudreaux, an economist at George Mason University agrees:

“In my camp, the Export-Import Bank has always been a prime example of unjustified, inefficient corporate welfare,” Boudreaux says. “The fact that there’s a Tea Party movement now, that’s what gives opposition to the Export-Import Bank some legs to stand on now.”

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immigration border security

Heritage Experts: Throwing Money at the Border Is Not the Solution

The Obama Administration is quick to blame the current crisis on our southern border on Republicans in Congress.  They claim Republicans have failed to fund the administration’s efforts to effectively deal with the massive influx of children from Central America entering the country illegally.  

White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz says Congress can’t criticize the administration while withholding funding to deal with the situation.

Unfortunately for Muñoz and her friends in the administration, there is plenty to criticize, and throwing money at the border is not the solution to the crisis. 

Heritage Foundation’s David Inserra and Romina Boccia explain:

Ultimately, additional funding is not the solution to the U.S.’s immigration woes. Instead, the Obama Administration should rescind its anti-enforcement policies that are contributing to this crisis in the first place. Specifically, the Obama Administration is claiming executive authority to not enforce the immigration laws through “prosecutorial discretion.”

 Read the whole piece here.

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School of Athens College Higher Education

Cost of Earning a College Degree Prohibitively Expensive for Many

Is Congress serious about making college more affordable and increasing access to college for more students?

Historically, their efforts to do so have failed, which is why “approximately 60 percent of students who earned a bachelor’s degree during the 2011-12 academic year left school more than $26,000 in debt.”

Fortunately, the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey M. Burke has real solutions to this problem, which she discussed in a testimony before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection.  Watch the testimony below.

Burke said, “earning a college degree is the way to climb the ladder of economic mobility,” which is why she has dedicated serious research to ensuring those who go to college can afford to do so without being burdened by such great debt upon graduation.   She stated:

The value of earning a college degree is demonstrable. The cost of earning that degree, however, has become prohibitively expensive for many as college costs have risen. Average tuition at four-year public institutions for out-of-state students reached $22,200 this academic year, and at private universities, average tuition now exceeds $30,000 annually.

In order to change that phenomenon, Burke explains:

In order to make college more affordable, federal policy should do three things:

1. Stop the higher education spending spree;
2. Employ fair-value accounting to understand the cost of federal student loans; and
3. Decouple federal financing from accreditation

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Obama Confused

Morning Action: White House Defends Bergdahl Deal

BERGDAHL.  The White House insists that the deal it made for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was done lawfully (sub. req’d):

The Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap was legal, the White House insisted Tuesday, as President Barack Obama defended the deal at a press conference in Poland.

A statement from the White House said the president’s power under the Constitution trumps a law requiring Congress get 30 days notice.

“Delaying the transfer in order to provide the 30-day notice would interfere with the Executive’s performance of two related functions that the Constitution assigns to the President: protecting the lives of Americans abroad and protecting U.S. soldiers,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “Because such interference would significantly alter the balance between Congress and the President, and could even raise constitutional concerns, we believe it is fair to conclude that Congress did not intend that the Administration would be barred from taking the action it did in these circumstances.”

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