Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) introduced the Prioritizing Army Corps, Trade and Highways Spending reform package (PATH). The package of four separate bills would create a transparent way to prioritize federal spending based on merit, without earmarks, for transportation, water and trade programs.
"The era of earmarks is over and now is the time for serious reforms that ensure tax dollars are spent on true federal priorities or not spent at all," said Senator DeMint. "Political earmarks have wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and overwhelmed federal agencies for decades with pork barrel projects. The PATH reforms provide the way forward for Congress to eliminate waste, focus funding on real priorities, and return more decisions and control to states and local communities."
Legislation introduced with the PATH to Reform Package includes:
S. 1164 - Transportation Empowerment Act
The legislation devolves the federal highway program to the states by gradually phasing out the federal highway and mass transit programs, so states can keep their gasoline taxes, set their own infrastructure priorities, and control their own transportation decisions. In a five-year transition period, the bill reduces the federal gas tax from 18.3 cents beginning in 2013 to 3.7 cents in 2017 in order to fund only the limited number of programs that serve a clear national purpose. A 2008 Government Accountability Study, requested by U.S. Senators DeMint and James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), found that "Functions that other entities can perform better than the federal government could be turned back to the state or other levels of government. Given that already substantial roles states and localities play in financing, design, construction, and operation of transportation facilities and service, there may be areas that no longer call for federal involvement and funding could be reassessed."
S. 573 - Corps of Engineers Reform Act of 2010
The bill, cosponsored by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) takes a multi-pronged approach to tackling some of the major structural and funding issues with the Corps of Engineers. It would help eliminate the current backlog of over 1,000 wasteful earmarks at the Corps, establish a Water Resources Commission to better prioritize water resource projects, and reform the administration of the Harbor Maintenance Tax Fund (HMTF) to allow states to choose, within the proper parameters, where to use the Harbor Maintenance taxes collected at their ports.
S. 1163 - Streamlining Partnerships to Enhance Economic Development (SPEED) Act
The SPEED Act allows for the Army Corps of Engineers to accept private, state, or local funds for study portions of potential projects. Currently private, state, and local funds can be accepted for certain construction projects but not studies. The SPEED Act ensures uniformity across the funding process and allows private entities, states, and localities to contribute to Corps of Engineers studies.
S. 1162 - Removing Hurdles for American Manufacturers Act of 2011
This bill, cosponsored by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) would change the current process for duty suspensions. Under the bipartisan bill, the International Trade Commission (instead of Congressional Offices) would consider and vet requests for duty suspensions and then transmit to Congress draft legislation that includes qualifying suspensions. The ITC would still use the same criteria it currently uses to determine if proposed suspensions qualify. Congress could then dispose of the legislation as it does now, and retain its constitutional authority over trade policy.