TRANSPORTATION EQUITY ACT: A LEGACY FOR USERS -- (House of Representatives - March 10, 2005)
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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the rule and want to thank my colleagues on the Committee on Rules for placing in order the Pascrell/Menendez/LoBiondo amendment which would protect New Jersey's ability to combat the influence money plays in the contracting process and also to reaffirm States' rights. As far as I am concerned, this is also a States' rights issue and the ability of States to pass legislation that would deal with the corruption issues.
I think you should know, Mr. Speaker, that the buzz word in our State these days in New Jersey is "pay to play." Pay to play simply means awarding lucrative government contracts to those who have given large political contributions. Unfortunately, it has become almost a way of life that people get contracts by giving large campaign contributions to politicians.
I do not have to tell anyone here why that becomes a problem. It does not basically allow the best contract to go forward, the most efficient, the lowest bid, the one that is in the best interest of the public.
It also wastes tax dollars. There have been numerous reports in the media in New Jersey about how tax dollars are wasted essentially when pay to play is in effect because it means that money that could have been perhaps used better for other educational or other government functions is, in effect, wasted in the pay to play process.
So what has happened in New Jersey is that New Jersey has been seeking a way to essentially eliminate pay to play.
Shortly before his resignation, our former governor Jim McGreevy, issued an executive order banning pay to play and his successor Governor Dick Cody has worked with the legislature to make the ban a permanent law. Again, this would be a vital step towards cleaning up the influence money plays in the contracting process in New Jersey. The problem though is that the rigid contracting rules of the Federal Government are putting a serious crimp on our State's attempts to foster good government.
The Federal Highway Administration requires that all contracts go to the lowest bidder, and they have said that the New Jersey pay to play ban would violate that rule. I know that the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) on the Committee on Rules explained that that is patently absurd. There is no reason why the Federal Government should block a State's ability to combat political influence, in this case, potentially withholding $1 billion in transportation funding that is critical to our Nation's most densely populated State.
I have always had an opinion from a State's rights point of view that, if a State wants to go further, in this case, our State trying to go further to eliminate corruption and the potential for political influence, there is no reason why the Federal Government should stand in the way of that. That does not make any sense.
I should also tell my colleagues that, before you think that the New Jersey delegation is just doing this as a parochial issue on the highway bill, you should look to your own State. The Highway Administration's rules could potentially block similar efforts pending in Connecticut and could effect existing anti-corruption laws in Kentucky, South Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. This is not a New Jersey specific problem. This is something that the Highway Administration could potentially block in a number of other States.
So I think, for all these reasons, this amendment makes sense. Again, I want to thank the Committee on Rules for putting the amendment in order. I want to thank particularly my colleagues, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pascrell), the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Menendez) and the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. LoBiondo) for sponsoring this amendment. But I should say, every one of the Members of the New Jersey delegation on a bipartisan basis does support this and is joining us in our effort to preserve States' rights and stand up for good government.
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