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Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CRAVAACK. I rise today in support of my amendment, which would prohibit the utilization of funds by the Secretary of Transportation to research or implement a distance-based fee system, commonly referred to as vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, that would levy a fee on a surface transportation vehicle user based on the distance traveled.

Mr. Chair, it is no secret that our current highway trust fund system is going bankrupt. The Federal gas tax designed to support this fund finds itself increasingly unable to pay for better roads, bridges, and rail due to several factors:

People are driving less due to a weak economy and high gas prices;

The creation of more fuel-efficient cars allows people to fill up less frequently at the pump;

And let's not forget about how Congress has been raiding the gas tax proceeds for decades to fund alternative transportation activities that in no way help maintain and improve roads and bridges we drive, such as building bike paths and planting flowers.

There is an important need to come up with new, better ideas on how to appropriately fund our highway trust fund system. However, I am here to tell you today that the concept of using a vehicle miles traveled fee system is not one of those better ideas.

Requiring people to pay for the miles they travel each year is not acceptable on a number of levels:

A VMT tax would be expensive to implement because every car would need to be fitted with a device that both records the miles driven and transmits the information to a government database. This complicated system would cost millions of dollars to install these devices in new vehicles, and it would cost many millions more if older vehicles and motorcycles are expected to be retrofitted with these devices;

The cost required to administer this taxation is expensive and inefficient, especially compared to the Federal gas tax, which provides an inexpensive form of taxation that is collected directly from refineries and importers;

Further, the requirement of an electronic mileage-tracking device to be installed in all cars also poses a significant privacy concern and a severe threat to our private information should one of these systems be hacked or corrupted. The potential for privacy abuse is a hazard waiting to happen. Government databases have already been compromised in the past, and this government system would be no exception;

Finally, the VMT tax would impose a ``regressive tax'' that would hit constituents in rural districts like Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District, the district that I represent, harder than any others. My constituents often have to drive many miles more than urban counterparts to perform the same daily tasks, like going to work, grocery shopping, dropping the kids off at school, and making deliveries for their small businesses. My constituents are already struggling to make ends meet with the current gas prices. Penalizing them for nothing more than living in a rural area will put them over the edge.

In sum, the VMT tax would produce a strongly negative reaction from the public--and for good reason. Americans don't like paying for the gas tax, and they are sure going to be even more unhappy about having to deal with an administrative and privacy nightmare that VMT promises. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to join me in support of my amendment, which would prevent the Secretary of Transportation from using funds to research or implement this harmful fee.


Mr. CRAVAACK. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Sir, I can give you my commitment that I believe in a robust transportation system within the United States. We need it for economy and commerce, we understand that. But definitely, the VMT is a toxic part of this puzzle that we just can't use. I look forward to finding other alternatives to be able to fund the robust transportation system that I believe the United States needs. I thank the gentleman very much for his comments.


Mr. CRAVAACK. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this bipartisan amendment.

This amendment is a simple one. It prohibits the use of taxpayer funds in furtherance of the implementation of the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme.

Starting in January, the European Union began to unilaterally apply the Emissions Trading Scheme, ETS, to civil aviation operators landing or departing from one of the EU member states.

Under the Emissions Trading Scheme, EU member states will require international carriers and operators to pay emission allowances--and in some cases penalties--for carbon emissions resulting from their operations. The EU's Emissions Trading Scheme will apply to the entire length of the flight, including those flights outside the European airspace.

For instance, for a flight leaving Los Angeles for London, taxes would be levied not only for the portion of the flight over the United Kingdom, but also for portions of the flight over the United States and international waters.

Despite serious legal issues and objections by a majority of the international community, including the United States, India, Russia, China, and the International Civil Aviation Organization, the EU is pressing ahead with its plans. Russia, China, and India are taking very clear actions in opposition of EU's emission scheme. China and India have directed their air carriers not to comply with the EU's ETS requirements. China has delayed Airbus orders, India is threatening in-kind retaliation, and Russia is threatening to deny airspace access to European air carriers.

The European Union's unilateral application of the Emissions Trading Scheme onto U.S. operators without the consent of the United States Government raises significant legal concerns under international law, including violations of the Chicago Convention and the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement.

The Emissions Trading Scheme will actually harm efforts to reduce global aviation emissions. By taking money away from the airline industry that would otherwise be invested in NextGen technologies and the purchase of new aircraft--two proven methods for improving environmental performance--the EU is siphoning scarce money to be used as each member state sees fit.

A better approach to address aviation's impact on global emissions is to work with the international civil aviation community through the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, to establish consensus-driven initiatives to reduce emissions. However, because the EU has made no effort to delay or retract the illegal Emissions Trading Scheme, this amendment is necessary to ensure that American taxpayer dollars will not be used to further the Europeans' unilateral and questionable scheme.

Last October, the House passed H.R. 2954, which directs the Secretary of Transportation to prohibit U.S. carriers from participating in the Europeans' illegal scheme. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate. It is my hope that the Senate will move quickly towards its passage. That legislation, along with this amendment to the Transportation appropriations for fiscal year 2013, will send a very strong message to our European friends that an illegal and unilateral action to address aviation emissions is not the proper course of action to deal with this issue. This must be a consensus-driven solution, not an international mandate.


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