Claim and Fact: Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA)

Claim: TEA does not fix the Highway Trust Fund (HTF)

TEA reduces the federal role in transportation once prior obligations of the HTF are met.  The bill does not (and should not) propose a solution to past mismanagement and past commitments that were based on unrealistic projections of revenue and/or the assumption of a general fund bailout.  Conservatives have proposed numerous offsets and reforms that would enable the HTF to be brought to solvency through spending reductions and devolution of responsibilities to the states.

Claim: TEA will require states to raise their gasoline taxes.

TEA gradually reduces the federal gas tax over a five-year period, while block-granting a portion of those revenues to states over that same time period. This is intended to allow states to transition to a funding structure that allows them the independence to manage their unique infrastructure requirements. Under the current HTF financing structure, one in four of the dollars states send to the federal government are diverted to non-highway spending.  Eighteen percent of gasoline taxes go to the account dedicated to mass-transit within the Highway Trust Fund.  Transit users do not pay anything into the Highway Trust Fund.  There is more than enough funding at the current taxation levels to fund the maintenance of the national highway network—the issue is the wasteful federal diversions and mandates that increase project costs.  State tax burdens will be much lower without federal mandates and wasteful spending absorbing billions of dollars in revenue.  TEA returns the responsibility for raising revenue to the states, gradually phasing out federal gas taxes to a low, but sufficient level.  States then have the flexibility to fund right-size transportation budgets how they see fit.

Claim: TEA will damage the national transportation network.

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FAQ: $400 Billion Doc Fix Deal FAQ (H.R. 2)

Status: Congress periodically overrides a 1997 law that attempts to contain the cost of Medicare payments to doctors.  It prevents the cuts from going into effect with legislation called the “doc fix.”  This year, Medicare payments to physicians will be reduced 21 percent if no doc fix passes by March 31st. While Congress normally passes short-term fixes that are paid for, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are attempting to pass a massive package that could increase the debt by more than $400 billion over two decades, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB).

Isn’t SGR just a budget fiction?

No. SGR would impose real, immediate cuts in Medicare if Congress doesn’t act.  These are real cuts that are scheduled to go into effect under current law.

How has the SGR been dealt with in the past? What do these “doc fixes” usually look like?

Because SGR was originally intended to bring Medicare costs to a sustainable level, Congress has almost always tried to maintain that spirit by coupling the doc fix with real cuts and reforms elsewhere in the healthcare system, usually through the Medicare program. In fact, the SGR has led to real health care reforms over the years, totaling $165 billion since 2002. An analysis done by the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) indicates that 98 percent of doc fixes have been offset with cuts elsewhere.

But aren’t these doc fix “offsets” usually gimmicks?

No. The same study mentioned above from CRFB estimates that only a fraction of the overall doc fix offsets could be classified as gimmicks.  Past doc fixes have contained small, but important structural reforms to Medicare as well as reductions in other areas of federal spending.

Why is SGR so important?

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Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind: The Student Success Act (H.R. 5)

Status: On February 11th, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) to reauthorize and reform the No Child Left Behind Act through 2021. A number of misleading claims are being made in the service of passing this bill. Below is a summary of these claims and detailed responses. Heritage Action is opposed to H.R. 5.

CLAIM: H.R. 5 replaces the current national accountability system with state-led accountability systems, freeing the states from federal interference.

FACT: Although the proposal wisely eliminates counterproductive and prescriptive Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) mandates, H.R. 5 maintains the current NCLB mandates for states to establish standards in reading and math and to test kids annually between grades 3-8 and once in high school. H.R. 5 orders that academic achievement standards “include the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement expected of all public school students in the state.” States must also use “the same academic assessments…to measure the academic achievement of all public school students in the state.” Taken together, these twin mandates direct the state to establish a single uniform assessment, limiting the ability of local schools to determine their own curriculum. Experts agree a well-rounded education is in the best interests of the child and that NCLB has damaged the ability of local school districts to set locally-driven curriculum that reflects the desires of families in their communities. The mandates in H.R. 5 perpetuate this problem.

Read the entire Heritage Action Sentinel Brief.

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Is President Obama Planning Unilateral Action on Amnesty?

In the spring of 2013, the Senate passed the “Gang of 8” amnesty bill (S. 744), which created a framework to legalize the estimated 11 million people currently living in the country unlawfully. House Republicans wisely recognized the bill for what it was—a comprehensive amnesty package—and refused to act on it. In spite of congressional inaction, President Obama has attempted a variety of unilateral maneuvers to ignore current immigration laws.

Is President Obama planning unilateral action on amnesty?

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Ex-Im Bank: Just the Facts

Background: In 2012, legislation to reauthorize and increase Ex-Im’s lending authority by 40 percent, from $100 billion to $140 billion, passed in the House and Senate. With its charter set to expire at the end of September, a bipartisan coalition is advocating for another reauthorization. If it is not reauthorized, the bank will be unable to offer new loans, effectively grinding it to a halt and preventing it from distributing subsidies to new constituencies.

A two year fight is culminating in what should be the final standoff between true congressional conservatives and those members intent on pleasing special interests and the corporate welfare beneficiaries. It is more important than ever for concerned citizens to apply pressure to their representatives and see the mission through to the end. Stay armed with the facts of the case to End Ex-Im, and find out where your congressman stands!

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