WASHINGTON -- A coalition of 11 organizations is urging Congressional tax conferees to oppose a Senate provision that could raise the deficit or force deep cuts in non-transportation spending by transferring the 4.3 cents-per-gallon fuels tax enacted in 1993 to the Highway Trust Fund.
The purpose behind the Senate provision, according to a report by the Senate Finance Committee, is to "ensure that more funds will be available for needed Highway Trust Fund programs in the future."
The coalition is concerned that the provision would eventually make transportation programs immune to discretionary spending caps and the annual appropriations process through which other federal programs compete for limited funding.
"Some of our organizations oppose the transfer because it would do serious harm to prospects for balancing the budget and lead instead to larger deficits; others fear it would force deep cuts in other domestic discretionary programs," stated a letter sent by the coalition to members of the tax bill conference committee." If Congress wishes to increase spending on transportation infrastructure, it should do so without increasing the budget deficit or permanently putting highway infrastructure spending ahead of other competing federal programs."
Members of the coalition include: The Concord Coalition Citizens Council; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Friends of the Earth; Council for Citizens Against Government Waste; Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget; National Taxpayers Union; Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project; Taxpayers for Common Sense; Small Business Survival Committee; The National Center for Public Policy Research; and the National League of Cities.
Attached is the letter sent by the coalition to members of the House-Senate conference committee and all other members of Congress.
July 11, 1997
Letter Sent to Conferees on H.R. 2014-Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1997
We strongly oppose transferring all 4.3¢-per-gallon of the transportation fuels tax enacted in 1993 from deficit reduction to the Highway Trust Fund.
We urge you to oppose this Senate-passed provision in the House-Senate conference on H.R. 2014.
The organizations listed below* (*Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Concord Coalition Citizens Council, National Taxpayers Union) publish congressional scorecards and have targeted this issue for inclusion in their 1997 ratings.
Transferring the 4.3¢-per-gallon transportation fuels tax revenues to the Highway Trust Fund does not, standing alone, cause federal spending to increase. However, that is the intended purpose behind the Senate provision. In fact, the Finance Committee report accompanying the bill candidly states on page 72 that the funds,
The intent is that the build up of unspent revenues in the Highway Trust Fund eventually will force expenditure of these monies.
Some of our organizations oppose the transfer because it would do serious harm to prospects for balancing the budget and lead instead to larger deficits; others fear it would force deep cuts in other domestic discretionary programs. Where do the supporters of the transfer propose to make offsetting cuts? Would the ax fall on education, environmental protection, law enforcement, science and technology, health research, assistance for poor children, or other investments that could lead to increased economic growth? Or would defense be cut? Or taxes raised? Or the deficit increased to finance higher highway spending? If proponents of the transfer have their way, something must give. If transportation infrastructure spending goes up, something else must go down -- or somebody must pay higher taxes -- or the budget will not balance. Balancing the budget is, in that respect, a zero sum game.
If Congress wishes to increase spending on transportation infrastructure, it should do so without increasing the budget deficit or permanently putting highway infrastructure spending ahead of other competing federal programs. On this point, some of our organizations are encouraged that the revenues from the 0.5¢-per-gallon dedicated to increased Amtrak spending though April 15, 2001 is offset in the Senate bill.
Concord Coalition Citizens Council
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Friends of the Earth
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
Carol Cox Wait
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
National Taxpayers Union
Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Small Business Survival Committee
The National Center for Public Policy Research
National League of Cities