U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he would support a two-year reauthorization of federal highway funding if changes were made to responsibly pay for the legislation. Today, the Senate approved the highway bill that authorizes $109 billion in spending over the next two years but uses budget gimmicks to pay for it over ten years, violating spending limits in place for this year. Since 2008, Congress has transferred a total of $35 billion from general federal revenues to pay for highway spending that exceeds Federal Highway Trust Fund revenues, which contributes to the deficit. Corker offered two alternatives to offset the deficit impact of the legislation. Both amendments were defeated, so Corker voted against the bill.
"I'm a strong supporter of highway infrastructure in Tennessee and throughout America, but paying for two years of spending over a decade contributes to the deficit and demonstrates that Congress can't even uphold modest limits on spending enacted just last August," Corker said. "As the House of Representatives takes up the Senate highway bill, I strongly urge them to fix the legislation so that we either spend only what the trust fund takes in each year or fully offset any additional spending on a current basis, as my amendments would have required us to do."
Corker's amendments to the Senate highway bill would require spending in excess of highway trust fund revenues to be fully offset on a current basis by spending reductions in other programs or limit annual highway spending to only what revenues to the trust fund can support, respectively.
Last week, Corker filed a point of order against the bill for violating annual spending caps enacted in the 2011 Budget Control Act. The point of order was defeated on a motion to waive enforcement of the rule.
Detailed summaries of Corker's amendments are included below.
Corker #1785 (offset the general fund transfers to the Federal Highway Trust Fund by lowering BCA caps): The Senate highway bill allows more money to be spent than the Federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) can support using current law trust fund revenues. As a result, we have to transfer money from the general fund to the HTF to cover the spending in excess of HTF resources if we want to meet the spending levels set forth in the bill. Even though, the Congressional Budget Office does not score it, the general fund transfer allows money to be spent in FY13 that would not otherwise be spent, resulting in a deficit increase. Even though the general fund transfer is used in two years, the bill offsets it over as many as 10 years. The Corker amendment would reduce the FY13 non-security discretionary budget authority caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act enough to fully offset the general fund transfer in two years.
Corker #1810 (prevent highway spending from exceeding trust fund resources): Highway spending that exceeds levels the highway trust fund can support through dedicated receipts increases the deficit. This amendment would prevent spending from exceeding levels the highway trust fund can support through dedicated revenue sources on an annual basis. The amendment would also disallow general fund transfers to be spent out of the highway trust fund.