TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, THE JUDICIARY, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007
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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, many times Members come with their amendments to the floor and say I have a commonsense amendment to present. Sometimes they are common sense and simple, and sometimes they are not. I would hazard the statement that this one is simple and a commonsense amendment that I make today. And it is one that I have made on the floor over the last several weeks with regard to some of the other appropriations bills as well.
It is simply to try to rein in some of the spending that we do here in Washington, to put some sort of a reasonable limit on some of the spending that we do because, you know, when you listen to all of the debates back and forth when we discuss the budget and other such matters, we differ on how we get here on some of these issues, but one thing that we do not seem to differ on is that we are spending too much and our debt is too high in this country.
If we can try to rein that in and bring down some of that debt, it is a good thing. And that is what this amendment does. This amendment puts a reasonable limit on the number of Federal employees that can attend out-of-this-country international conferences.
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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I recognize the point of order.
Mr. Chairman, it was just yesterday we were on this floor honoring the work of former President Dwight Eisenhower and also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the national interstate highway system.
That system that he was the champion of for a number of years beforehand and finally got done, that system that we today bear the fruit, enjoy the fruit of. That system that was, in essence, put in place to connect border to border, east to west, north to south, the major urban areas and the city areas of this country, primarily for a national defense purposes was what the President had in mind. That system, as I say, was started 50 years ago. That system, of course, was also completed 20 years ago. And as I mentioned on the floor just yesterday, I believe that the former President and great general that he was, would want us, as we go into the second half of that century to be able to stand on his shoulders of the work that he was able to accomplish and now move on to a more progressive and appropriate system for this century.
Under the current system, it is sort of a top-down approach as far as transportation dollars are concerned. Even though States spend twice as much money on our transportation system in the country than the Federal Government does, we are all aware of the fact that there is an 18-cent gasoline tax in every State. That money comes from your respective State to Washington, D.C., through the hands of the bureaucrats down here where the decisions are made and then reallocated with the things that we read about in the paper as well as far as some of the programs and dollars where they are spent. Things that our taxpayers probably just scratch their head and wonder what is Washington doing with those dollars. I would gather the local officials, county, municipal and State officials also wonder just what Washington is doing with those transportation dollars as well.
To that end, I have introduced legislation called the Surface Transportation and Taxation Equity Act, the STATE Act for short. And that is a piece of legislation that simply says this: That States should be allowed, if they so desire, to opt out of the Federal gasoline and transportation system and make those decisions right at home instead.
See, right now, States are either donor States or donee States. States like the State of New Jersey, which is my own, is a donor State. We send more to Washington as far as gasoline taxes than we ever get back in return, so we are, in effect, subsidizing the other States. But even donee States, even those States that think that they are doing well by this system, may not be. And the reason I say that is this. Even though they are getting a little bit more, a few pennies back on the dollar more than they send to Washington, the problem is there are strings attached to those dollars. Washington just doesn't turn those dollars back to those donee States nor in to the donor States without any restrictions. They don't turn them back carte blanche. Washington, the bureaucrats, put restrictions on them. But what exactly do those restrictions cost the States? What do they cost through the micro-management that Washington does to those States? What does it cost those respective States inasmuch as they are not able to spend the dollars as the citizens of those States feel are most appropriate? What does it cost at the end of the day in wasted Federal and local taxes?
So what this amendment does, to get to the bottom of it, is simply do a study. Let's get the facts. Let's find out what it is, in fact, costing the States to comply with this top-down, inefficient, outdated system of funding and building our roads and bridges across this country.
This amendment simply asks the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct a study to determine the amount each State spends to comply with the regulations of the USDOT and whether or not there are programs that they are spending on that the sovereign States do not intend for them to spend it on. So in the end this is simply an amendment asking for a study to ask for full disclosure so that we both in Washington and at the local level and the taxpayers as well know exactly where their dollars are going to, where they are coming from and whether they are being put to the best use.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
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