How Do You Get Around the Earmark Ban?

Claim it serves tourists. From around the country!

That’s how an amendment from Congressman Scott Garrett got voted down last night. The amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R.5972) would have zeroed-out funding (subs. req’d.) for Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) grants.

In 2008, a rail safety law provided $1.5 billion for capital and maintenance grants over the next 10 years for the Metro. Now, for those of us who use the Metro, we know that maintenance is lacking. For those of us that have looked into the matter even a little bit, we know that the reason the Metro is run so poorly is because the government runs it. If private companies were in charge of the maintenance (and had to compete for the work) then those of us who ride the Metro might be able to travel to and from our destination without one broken escalator (seriously, every day there’s at least one on my route).

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Rep. Blumenauer Advocates for a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Tax

Earlier today, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) took to the House floor to give a speech about a new way to pay for transportation spending. Instead of the gas tax, he suggests we switch to the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax, which – as the name suggests – taxes the amount of miles you drive rather than the amount of fuel you use. Why? Because of those environmentalist-favored fuel efficient cars (watch the video here):

“Our problem was created because for years Congress and the last two administrations have been unwilling to deal meaningfully with the large gap in funding for transportation created because we rely on an outmoded funding system based on the number of gallons of fuel consumed. With more efficient gas and diesel vehicles augmented by more hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars, the transportation trust fund is locked into an inevitable downward spiral. Like the looming Social Security deficit, the longer we wait the worse it will get.

“Not this year, but over the next few years, we should temporarily increase and then replace the gas tax with a system that is based on the amount of road used. The new legislation should be laying the foundation for this transition, unfortunately it doesn’t.”

Curse fuel efficiency! Saving drivers money on gas…

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The McClintock “EAS” Amendment Vote Recap

Last night, the House of Representatives voted on the McClintock Amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R.5972). The amendment would have eliminated discretionary spending on the Essential Air Services (EAS) program, which provides subsidies to commuter and regional airlines in order to provide service to rural airports that are not economically viable absent federal subsidies. The key vote is listed below, along with a breakdown of how Republicans and Democrats voted:

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Highway Bill Deal Coming…After Another Extension

What began in March of this year as another cut and dry massive spending boondoggle that would continue the status quo of spending more money than revenues coming in has become a rallying cry for conservatives across the country. Even though the highway bill passed in the Senate with a bipartisan majority, the House balked at their hugely expensive version, thanks to conservative opposition.

At issue is the fact that the legislation spends more money than revenues bring in, and would require another bailout of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) from the general revenue fund. Instead of waiting for Washington to get their act together (and stop the excess spending), local officials are making the case for turning control of transportation funding back to the states. In February, a whole host of local officials decried the fact that it was up to Washington to decide their transportation budgets:

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Driving the Week: SCOTUS, Spending and Contempt

This week will be pivotal in shaping our nation’s policies, politics and the Presidential campaigns.

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld what is widely viewed as the central element of the Arizona immigration law, the section which requires police offers to check the immigration status of those stopped, detained or arrested in the state. Although this section was the most controversial, it was the only part that the Supreme Court upheld. All other provisions were struck down, including provisions allowing police to arrest immigrants without a warrant if “probable cause” exists, making it a state crime for illegal immigrants not to carry registration papers or government identification, and forbidding illegal immigrants to apply, solicit or perform work in the state.

The Supreme Court this morning also struck down a challenge to Citizens United in Montana, asserting that corporations, unions and other special interests have the same First Amendment rights as citizens.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court will also decide the fate of Obamacare. Speculation has been flying for months, with four possible outcomes expected:

  1. Upholding the entire law;
  2. Striking just the individual mandate;
  3. Striking the individual mandate and several other provisions, including the requirement of insurers to accept all customers and forcing insurers to charge everyone the same, regardless of medical history; or
  4. Striking the entire law.
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