House GOP to Move Jobs Bill Linking Increased American Energy Production to Infrastructure Reform
In the coming weeks, House Republicans will formally introduce an energy & infrastructure jobs bill, and hope to move the legislation through the House before the end of the year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced today. House Republicans oppose wasteful "stimulus" spending, and instead favor an approach that combines an expansion of American-made energy production with initiatives to repair and improve infrastructure and reform the way infrastructure money is spent. As Speaker Boehner said in his September 15, 2011 jobs address at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., such an approach would support economic growth by removing government barriers to private-sector job creation, particularly in the area of American energy production.
The energy/infrastructure jobs bill will be the latest measure in the House GOP American Energy Initiative, an ongoing effort to support job creation and lower energy prices for families and businesses by allowing increased production of American-made energy.
From Speaker Boehner's Sept. 15 economic address, proposing an energy/infrastructure jobs bill as an alternative to failed “stimulus” spending:
"There are [other things] we can do in the weeks and months ahead to free our economy and bolster confidence among our job creators. . .[one is] in the area of transportation and infrastructure. I’m not opposed to responsible spending to repair and improve infrastructure. But if we want to do it in a way that truly supports long-term economic growth and job creation, let’s link the next [infrastructure] bill to an expansion of American-made energy production. Removing some of the unnecessary government barriers that prevent our country from utilizing its vast energy resources could create millions of new jobs. There’s a natural link between the two: as we develop new sources of American energy, we’re going to need modern infrastructure to bring that energy to the market."
In a Sept. 6 letter to President Obama, Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor called for an infrastructure approach that would reform the way transportation funds are spent:
“[I]t is our understanding that you may propose an infrastructure initiative as part of your jobs plan. We are not opposed to initiatives to repair and improve infrastructure, and believe there are reforms that can be implemented that would improve their effectiveness in a manner that supports economic growth. Current law requires that states set-aside 10 percent of their surface transportation funds for transportation enhancements, which must be used for items such as establishment of transportation museums, education activities for pedestrians and bicyclists, acquisition of scenic easements, historic preservation, operation of historic transportation facilities, etc. While many of the initiatives funded by this mandatory set-aside may be worthy projects, eliminating this required set-aside would allow states to devote more money to the types of infrastructure programs you are advocating without adding to the deficit. We believe such a reform would be consistent with your statement. . .that we should ‘reform the way transportation money is invested, to eliminate waste, to give states more control over the projects that are right for them.’”
And in a Sept. 16 memo, House Republican leaders identified infrastructure reform as an area for potential common ground with the White House, distinguishing it from policies proposed by the president that would repeat or continue spending from the failed 2009 ‘stimulus’ bill:
“We believe there are areas of common agreement, and areas worthy of further conversation where agreement — assuming there are good faith discussions — may be possible. Areas of potential common agreement and areas worthy of further discussion include. . .Infrastructure Funding. The President has proposed $50 billion in 'immediate' surface transportation funding and the creation of a new $10 billion national infrastructure bank. While spending to repair and improve infrastructure can play an important part in both short- and long-term economic growth, adding more money to the same broken system is more likely to produce waste and inefficiency than meaningful results. There are more than 100 federal surface transportation programs, many of which are duplicative or do not serve a federal purpose. Before spending new money, for example, we could act to end the mandatory set aside that diverts 10% of current surface transportation funds from roads and bridges to transportation museums and other 'enhancements.' And the money we do spend ought to get to the job site faster. For example, of the highway funds provided over two and half years ago under the President’s stimulus bill, [more than] 18% is still unexpended. In part, this is because of an overly complicated and bureaucratic approval process that everyone agrees ought to be fixed. Rather than adding more money to a broken system, Congress and the President should spend the next few months working out a multi-year transportation authorization bill that fixes these problems. . .
“There are also some aspects of the President’s proposal where it will be harder to find common ground. In addition to his proposed tax increases, we do not agree with the policies proposed by the President that are a repeat or continuation of spending from his 2009 stimulus bill. For example, the President has proposed. . .Payments to State and Local Governments: The 2009 stimulus bill included $53.6 billion in state stabilization funds under the guise of preventing the layoff of teachers, law enforcement officers, and other municipal employees. This band-aid approach masked over the true fiscal problems facing states and local governments. Some jurisdictions used the funds to provide one-time raises; others retained employees for a short-period of time, only to lay them off later. The President is proposing more of the same with an additional $30 billion in spending. . .Federal School Construction: School construction has historically been a state and local function. In his 2009 stimulus proposal, President Obama proposed approximately $20 billion for school construction, but the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected the proposed funding. . .Neighborhood Stabilization Grants: The President has proposed a $15 billion initiative to rehabilitate and refurbish homes. This proposal is strikingly similar to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program which has already received $7 billion in funding. There have been allegations of misuse of funds and little evidence that the program delivered the promised results. Five Democrats actually joined with House Republicans in voting to terminate the program earlier this year. . .Tax Increases: As the President himself has said, ‘…you don’t raise taxes in a recession.’ With respect to the tax increases the President has proposed to pay for this package, many in his party seem to agree.”
Notably, the Republican-led House banned earmarks at the start of the 112th Congress, and Speaker Boehner – who has voted against every highway bill containing earmarks during his time in Congress – has been clear that the congressional earmark ban will continue to be enforced. House Republicans adopted an earmark ban as one of their first major acts as a new majority, and have made increased scrutiny of spending bills – a key promise of the GOP Pledge to America – a major priority in the 112th Congress. Learn more about the Republican Plan for America’s Job Creators at jobs.GOP.gov and visit the American Energy Initiative on Facebook.