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FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, the distinguished Senator from New Hampshire and I are going to engage in a discussion about the vote we are going to have at 10:40 a.m. But the Republican leader is on his way to the floor in a few minutes. When he comes, we are going to step aside and let him make his remarks, and then we will resume.

The vote we are having at 10:40 a.m. has the following problems with it: No. 1, it is $10 billion for the State to pay for teachers. That sounds pretty good except that it ties the hands of the Governors and the legislatures so they cannot change education funding levels if their State budgets are in trouble.

No. 2, there is $16 billion for States to pay for Medicaid. That sounds pretty good, too, except that it ties the hands of the States and the Governors so they cannot adjust their State Medicaid Program and continue to face a funding cliff.

I heard the distinguished Senator from Washington State talk about college students. The reason California students are facing a 32-percent increase in tuition is largely caused by California's expenses for Medicaid, the State program that is funded also by the Federal Government that has so many Federal rules that it keeps going up in cost. And the money that would be going to the University of California or the University of Tennessee or the University of New Hampshire instead goes for Medicaid. Then there is not money for the university, and then what happens? The tuition goes up.

Finally, part of the way this bill is paid for is by almost $10 billion of permanent tax increases on multinational corporations that would have the effect of driving jobs overseas--just one more action by the Democratic majority and this administration in the middle of a recession or a time of near 10-percent unemployment that makes it harder to create new jobs in the United States.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from New Hampshire and I may engage in a colloquy.

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Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I ask my friend from New Hampshire, the senior member of the Budget Committee and a former Governor of his State, what about the idea of sending money to States and then requiring them, in effect, to spend more money at a time when most States are cutting State budgets so they can balance their budgets?

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Mr. ALEXANDER. The Senator is exactly right. The National Association of Manufacturers says there are 22 million Americans who are hired by companies that do business not only in the United States but overseas.

I say to the Senator from New Hampshire, I think we want companies that are principally in the United States that do business overseas because what is the alternative? The alternative is they are in Singapore or they are in Great Britain or they are in other countries around the world and they are not in our country. They are not paying taxes here, and they are not hiring people here.

I see the distinguished Senator from Kentucky has arrived. The Senator from New Hampshire and I are in the midst of a fascinating discussion, but we think we will step down while he makes his remarks.

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Mr. ALEXANDER. The Senator has been talking about education. There is another important part of the bill--$16 billion to Medicaid. This is the Federal program to which, now with the new health care law, more than 70 million people will belong in 2014. But here is what the bill also does. According to a Wall Street Journal article on May 20, because of this bill--and as a result of this bill, if it should pass--States will be limited in their ability to make changes in the Medicaid Program to save money.

So what does that mean?

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Mr. ALEXANDER. It is not just me saying it. The Lieutenant Governor of New York, Richard Ravitch, wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal on June 7 where he said he greatly appreciated the stimulus money--and this is the same problem--but because of these requirements that prohibit Governors and legislatures from making changes in the law to save money, he says the net result is the Federal stimulus--and this bill is just the son of stimulus or the daughter of stimulus--has led States to increase overall spending in these core areas, to increase spending.

So the point of what we are doing is to cause States to increase spending, said the Lieutenant Governor of New York, which in effect has only raised the height of the cliff from which State spending will fall if stimulus funds evaporate.

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Mr. ALEXANDER. If I may say in response to the question and comment from the Senator from Kentucky, this country was created by States, and now has created a central government of limited powers. The central government makes the States the wards of the central government.

In the State of Tennessee this year--I believe for the first time--more than half the dollars in the State budget come from the Federal Government. In addition to the dollars coming from Washington, the rules are coming from Washington. So the Governor of Kentucky or New Hampshire or Tennessee is trying to say: Medicaid spending is out of control. It is ruining our public colleges and universities because we have no money left for them, so we want to change the eligibility.

That has been the case during the last 10 years. We have had Medicaid spending going up in the States by 70 or 80 percent over a 7- or 8-year period of time, and funding for public universities at a low level with tuitions, therefore, going way up. So the Governor is saying: Whoa, let's do something about Medicaid. Then we passed a bill and said to the Governors: Don't you change Medicaid. You are not allowed, if you take this money, to save any money in Medicaid.

So spending for Medicaid goes up because we require it to go up, and that means tuitions in Kentucky, New Hampshire, Tennessee, California, and all across this country are going to be higher because of legislation like we are considering today.

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