Last month, President Obama visited the House chamber and had an opportunity to chart a new course for America’s still-ailing economy. Instead, in his State of the Union address, the president doubled down on the same failed approach and gimmicks that have left unemployment above 8 percent for a full three years. The president’s economic policies are simply making it harder for small businesses to grow and hire more workers. That’s why House Republicans have been pursuing a different approach to job creation.
Our Plan for America’s Job Creators is focused on fostering entrepreneurship, easing regulations that are smothering job creators, boosting American exports, reducing budget deficits that are stifling economic growth, lowering the tax burden on small and family-owned businesses, and removing government barriers to domestic energy production.
This week, the House will continue to advance pro-growth legislation by passing the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7). This legislation will help to create good, private-sector jobs, ease rising gas prices and promote stable, long-term economic growth. It represents not only a 180-degree turn from the failed stimulus approach of President Obama, but also a genuine departure from the misguided way Washington has been abusing hardworking taxpayers for years.
Keystone and other energy resources
H.R. 7 begins by breaking down government barriers to allow for responsible exploration of energy resources here at home. Producing more American-made resources will bolster our energy security, help ease prices at the pump and create more than one million new American jobs. The bill will also override the President on the Keystone pipeline so that it can move forward. While President Obama has destroyed energy jobs by implementing a drilling moratorium and rejecting the Keystone project, Republicans want to tap American resources to create new jobs.
Increased production also means additional royalties from the lease of new federal lands and offshore areas. H.R. 7 devotes these payments from energy companies to help fund a new long-term approach to repairing and improving America’s roads and bridges. We must rebuild our ailing highway system—not because spending government money is how you create jobs, but because dependable infrastructure is critical for commerce and long-term private-sector growth. The President’s short-sighted stimulus approach is no way to ensure we have a stable transportation system that is built to last.
Still, we must recognize Washington has acted irresponsibly in spending infrastructure dollars long before President Obama. Congress last passed a major highway program in 2005. It was a pork-laden, Washington-centered nightmare that brought us the “Bridge to Nowhere” and required more than one taxpayer-funded bailout to stay afloat. I voted against that bill—one of only eight members of the House to vote no. In fact, I’ve never voted for a highway bill in my 21 years in Congress. In the past, highways bills represented what was wrong with Washington: earmarks, endless layers of bureaucracy, wasted tax dollars and misplaced priorities.
The new Republican majority was sent to Washington to end the status quo, and with the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, we are fixing the mistakes of the past—completely overhauling the way taxpayer dollars are spent. For starters, pulling from new energy exploration, this infrastructure jobs bill doesn’t add a dime to the deficit. And it will have no earmarks—none. The last highway bill was stuffed with more than 6,300 earmarks. But gone are the days when powerful chairmen and the most senior members of Congress steer your money to their most-favored pet projects.
Washington already has too much control over the way highway dollars are spent. Today, only about two-thirds of the dollars that states collect from the federal gas tax end up back in state control. Local communities know best what their needs are. That’s why more money needs to go back to the states—without a complicated web of federal strings attached. With this legislation, 93 percent of the money will be returned to the states so they can set their own priorities.
Reduced federal mandates
Sending more money back to the states isn’t enough. We must also relieve them of the federal mandates that divert hard-earned tax dollars from fixing roads and bridges to wasteful projects like new bike paths, lighted sidewalks, and scenic byways. Washington’s priorities have gotten so out of place that it’s actually mandated currently that 25 percent of highway dollars be spent on non-highway projects. With the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, 100 percent of gas tax revenue will be devoted to core highway programs. The bill also eliminates 70 duplicative and wasteful government programs, expedites bureaucratic processes, cuts project approval time in half, and encourages greater private-sector investment in highway projects.
The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act will be first highway infrastructure bill I’ve ever voted for. That’s because it has its priorities straightened out. This legislation, like all the components of our Plan for America’s Job Creators, is about breaking down government so we can build up private-sector jobs.