For Immediate Release Contact:  Jim Campi
September 24, 1997    (202) 467-5300


(Washington, D.C.) – Calling it a “temporary victory for taxpayers,” Council for Citizens Against Government Waste President Thomas A. Schatz today lauded the retreat by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) from his attempts to ram through his Building Efficient Surface Transportation Equity Act (BESTEA).  Shuster backed down from demanding floor action on his three-year, $103 billion BESTEA proposal, which mandated $34 billion more in transportation spending than allowed for in the balanced budget agreement.  Shuster claimed the extra money would come from projected surpluses in future budgets.

“The sunlight we shined on Shuster’s proposal was an effective antiseptic and has sent the chairman running for cover,”  Schatz remarked.  “His bill was larded with pork such as $4.5 million for a National Scenic Byways Center and an Inner-City Bus Museum in Minnesota and a new railroad museum in West Virginia.”

Schatz added, “These projected surpluses are far from a certainty and are no excuse for busting the budget deal.  Congress should not be trying to spend money is doesn’t have, and which really belongs back in the pockets of American taxpayers.”

Shuster’s alternative is a six-month extension of the current Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), which would be funded at current levels.  The short-term solution has angered the Senate, which has stayed within the budget deal in its reauthorization plan for ISTEA.

“The Senate proposal proves that ISTEA can be renewed within the parameters of the budget deal,”  Schatz said.  “And they have every right to demand that the House committee follow suit.”

With an extension in place, Shuster will work on a revised BESTEA plan, which may include a mechanism to funnel surplus money into transportation spending, a provision that, unfortunately, some House leaders support.

“It’s a bad precedent giving transportation priority in deciding what to do with surplus money, and it encourages other special interests to line up at the trough,” Schatz stated.  “Like most transportation bills, BESTEA is a cynical pork roast for the powerful members of Shuster’s committee who like to bribe their constituents with highway projects.  The bill should really be called TRAVIS-TEA.  Members of Congress have plenty of good ideas for projected surpluses, including tax relief and paying down the national debt.”

CCAGW is a private, non-partisan lobbying organization dedicated to enacting legislation to eliminate waste, inefficiency, and mismanagement in the federal government.

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