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Public Statements

Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, usually when something is killed, it stays dead.

But just like a zombie movie, some earmarks refuse to die and return to life as wasteful deficit spending. That's what has happened with this bill and what my simple commonsense amendment corrects.

This Congress was supposed to eliminate earmarks, but zombie earmarks from prior sessions keep appearing and reappearing and my amendment corrects that. Republicans are taking earmarks from previous sessions and calling them something else. Is that our new spending plan? Mr. Speaker, at a time when we face a massive national deficit and have limited resources to address our Nation's transportation needs, the pending measure provides billions of dollars for the construction of the Alabama Porkway and the Canadian Baconway.

Mr. Speaker, even as many in Congress have sworn off earmarks, this legislation continues funding to the Alabama Porkway, a 65-mile, six-lane beltway zombie earmark, a massive highway that surrounds the City of Birmingham, costing taxpayers billions. In fact, just last year, an article in the Birmingham News cited how cost estimates have soared from $3.4 billion to $4.7 billion before construction. So costs have soared, and now Alabama wants a bailout for their zombie highway, an earmark and a bailout.

Mr. Speaker, I guess the more Washington changes, the more it stays the same. The good news is, Mr. Speaker, with this amendment I'm calling out this bailout and giving Members on both sides of the aisle the opportunity to stop the bailout of the Alabama Porkway.

In 2004, a Republican Member of Congress added a provision that had not been included in either the House or the Senate bill behind closed doors to an appropriations bill adding a new 65-mile, six-lane Birmingham beltway to the Appalachian Development System. This earmark is unprecedented in the Appalachian region's more-than-45-year history. Alabama went from receiving 6.2 percent of highway funds to 25 percent in one fell swoop. That's good for the Alabama Porkway and those living high on the hog, but bad for taxpayers everywhere and worthy projects across Appalachia.

My amendment strikes the windfall bailout and a windfall that comes at the expense of 12 other States in the Appalachian region. The money comes directly from projects that would have been funded in Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Even many Alabamans understand that this is a waste of Federal dollars. If Alabamans want to build a porkway around Birmingham, go right ahead. Just don't do it with our tax dollars outside of the normal process while competing for their share of Federal dollars.

Many Alabamans agree. One in the Birmingham News said, ``Spend, spend, spend. That's the mantra of the Birmingham beltway and State and local government.'' Another Alabaman says, ``As a businessman, I am more concerned about the flagrant disregard for the economic damage that will be wreaked on Alabama in the long term by the beltline.''

The beltline goes right through the farm of 88-year-old Ardell Turner. She lived her entire life in Alabama. The Northern Beltline goes right through her farm that she and her husband have had since 1950. This is big Federal deficit spending, a big beltway, a big porkway right through Ardell's farm.

My amendment also prohibits construction of highways in foreign countries, which this bill contains.

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us provides gas tax funds, $30 million a year, for a 325-mile Canadian baconway right through the Yukon, out of the pocket of American families and into a Canadian baconway.

The next time my colleagues are at home at a gas station talking to constituents, I encourage them to ask their constituents if they think our gas tax dollars should be used to build a 325-mile highway in Canada or any foreign county.

Now, this isn't an anti-Canada amendment. In fact, I don't think Mexico or Canada should be building highways through the United States. What this amendment does is it gives every Member of the House a chance to decide if we would rather build highways in Canada or reduce our deficit. Our choice.

If you want to reduce the deficit and make sure there isn't a precedent for Mexico or Canada building highways through your State, vote ``yes.'' If you want to engage in more deficit spending to build expensive highways through the Yukon, vote ``no.''

My amendment would prohibit the use of any funds provided under this act for construction of highways outside of the United States and reduce the Federal deficit by over $12 million.

Mr. Speaker, on March 2, 2011, I offered an amendment to stop Federal taxpayer money from funding the infamous Bridge to Nowhere. Mr. Mica gave a response to it and said it was smoke and mirrors. He said it's trying to mislead the House and it's smoke and mirrors.

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Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, this is not smoke and mirrors.

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Mr. POLIS. The House cannot hide behind smoke and mirrors, behind wasteful pork--from Alabama to the Yukon.

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