The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Gas Guzzling Highway Bill Chugs to the White House

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Late on December 3, 2015, the Senate passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act with a vote of 83-16.  Needing only a signature from the President to become law, the FAST Act is a hasty solution to a long-term problem without concern for the amount of taxpayer money it wastes.

The FAST Act is akin to a simple oil change for the Highway Trust Fund, when a rebuilt engine is needed instead.  The Highway Trust Fund, has financed federal road building and maintenance since the days of Eisenhower.  But in recent years, its substantial spending gaps have required even more money from the government in order to survive.  This act does nothing to control (much less lessen) the spending; instead, it employs different gimmicks to fill the ever-growing gap.

There are three especially wasteful workovers used on the aging engine that is the Highway Trust Fund. First, it takes “rainy day” surplus funds from the Federal Reserve, unwisely accelerating the timeline for Congress to appropriate these dollars.  Another patch is a provision forcing the Department of Energy to sell over 100 million barrels of oil; however, in order to generate the revenue needed, the oil needs to be sold for $90 per barrel when the current market price for these barrels is only $40 per barrel, resulting in a $5 billion shortfall before the ink is dry on the President’s signature.  The third patch is increasing customs fees for travelers.  This money should be funding the needs of U.S. Customs, instead of bailing out a broken highway funding system.

This Highway Trust Fund fix, while showcasing bipartisanship between Democrats and Republicans, is short on necessary reforms and will guzzle even more money from the taxpayers when it inevitably breaks down again.

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