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Highway Trust Fund

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Highway Trust Fund

Congressman Reid Ribble
Congressional Record: 114th Congress
July 15, 2015

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Ribble) for 5 minutes.

Mr. RIBBLE. Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, this body is going to come together and in bipartisan fashion--I think that is normally a good thing, in bipartisan fashion--be able to applaud themselves for fixing the highway trust fund. Like the proverbial magician that takes the shiny object in one hand to distract you, they will, with sleight of hand, with the other hand borrow $8.1 billion when the American people aren't watching.

I want to refer you to the chart on my left. You will see three lines. I want to talk about the bottom two first.

The very bottom line is the revenue line. That is the amount of money we receive from excise taxes and gasoline taxes to pay for roads and bridges and infrastructure. The red line above it is the expenditures. That is the money that we are spending. The difference between the two is the deficit. That is the borrowed money. I will show you where it is.

For decades--for decades--we have been adding red ink to the American people's debt. We have been borrowing billions of dollars annually each year to spend on our infrastructure rather than telling the American people the truth: that if we believe as Members of Congress and this body that roads and bridges and airports are important enough to buy, they are important enough to pay for. But we don't want to do that. We don't want to tell the American people we are going to raise taxes.

But I want you to know that this afternoon when we borrow $1.8 billion to build roads and bridges, we are going to raise taxes. Here is what I mean. We are going to raise taxes on kids, on our children, on my 11-year-old grandson. Do you want to know why? Because we don't want to tell them, we don't want to tell adults today that they have to pay for the roads and bridges that they buy today. What we would rather do is say you can have these things for free. We are going to wave the shiny magic object here. We are going to borrow money while telling the American people it is paid for, and then we are going to ask our children when they grow up to buy our roads and bridges when the bill comes due.

We are perfectly fine on raising taxes on kids, raising taxes on children. Do you want to know why? Because they can't vote. So let's tell them they have got to pay for this stuff rather than us paying for this stuff. Remember, all deficit spending is nothing more than future taxation.

What is the top line here, the hash line? Back in 1992, the last time that we raised the national gas tax, Congress, before I came here and before many of my colleagues came here, decided not to index the gas tax to inflation. So our purchasing power is disappearing because we have left it where it is.

Now, I am going to use a green pen here. All that green is lost opportunity.

I don't know how many of you have flown into LaGuardia, JFK, O'Hare, these international airports. They are the international gateway to the United States economy, and they are also an international embarrassment on a global scale.

We continue to let these places degrade and fall apart, and yet none of us in our own spending would do that in our homes. If the roof leaks, we fix it. If the House needs painting, we paint it. We take care of these things and maintain them because they are our assets. They are what we are passing on to the next generation. We have lost all this opportunity.

What I would much rather see is either we are honest with the American people, Mr. Speaker, and say, if it is worth buying and worth doing, we should pay for it, and then raise the taxes necessary to do that, like Ronald Reagan did, like George Bush did, like Dwight Eisenhower did--all Republican Presidents. They said it is worth paying for. Let's not burden our children. Let's not tax them. If it is worth doing that, we should do that.

If it is not worth doing that, we should bring our expenditures down to the revenue level and not spend the money in the first place so that we are sending a clear message back to each of the States that are getting Federal largess on highways and roads that we are not going to do that and that you need to raise your taxes to cover the gap.

Both of those ideas would be better than what we are doing right now, which is nothing but a magic trick on children, and we ought to stop it.

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