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Six Pro-Growth Reforms in the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs ActPosted by Kevin Smith on February 01, 2012
This week, House Republicans formally introduced the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7), which will support American job creation by removing government barriers to long-term economic growth, particularly in the production of American-made energy. The bill lowers government barriers to responsible production of American-made energy and uses the revenues to repair and improve America’s transportation infrastructure, which is critical to our economy’s ability to function. By lowering government barriers to American energy production and reforming the process by which Washington funds infrastructure projects, the bill will support the creation of more than one million private-sector jobs, lower gas prices, and repair our nation’s roads and bridges – with no earmarks. Instead of more ‘stimulus’ spending or wasteful earmarks, the bill includes major reforms that will help to clear the way for long-term U.S. economic growth – a stark contrast to the meddling, micromanaging, and manipulating Washington has done in the past under majorities of both parties. It slashes bureaucratic red tape, gives greater control to states and local communities, and ensures taxpayer dollars are spent on high-priority infrastructure projects that support economic growth and job creation– rather than bike paths and beautification efforts.
While Republicans support projects to repair and rebuild America’s aging transportation infrastructure, this is a different kind of infrastructure bill than the ones written under either party in the past. Here are six pro-growth reforms included in the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7):
1. Reforms the Highway Trust Fund Financing System, Removes Barriers to Job Creation. Instead of destroying jobs by increasing gasoline taxes on every American, which some Democrats have proposed, the bill removes barriers to private-sector job creation and pays for infrastructure improvements through expanded American energy production. The measure would help create more than one million jobs by:
- Lifting President Obama’s drilling ban on new offshore areas by requiring the administration to lease offshore areas estimated to contain the most oil and natural gas resources;
- Setting clear rules for the development of U.S. oil shale resources and promoting shale technology research and development; and
2. Eliminates Earmarks & Wasteful Spending. The bill contains zero earmarks and includes reforms to ensure that funding is targeted to high-priority projects, not wasteful spending such as beautification and bike paths. Highway bills became a major vehicle for earmarks in the 1980s under a Democratic Congress, a practice that continued and unfortunately expanded under majorities of both parties over the next two decades. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the 2005 highway authorization had 5,671 highway earmarks worth $21.7 billion, and the total number of earmarks exceeded 6,300. The 1998 transportation bill had 1,883 highway earmarks worth $9.6 billion. The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act includes no earmarks.
- Opening less than three percent of ANWR’s 19 million acres in the North Slope, an area that was specifically set aside by Congress and President Jimmy Carter, for oil and natural gas development.
3. Ensures Taxpayer Dollars Are Spent on High-Priority Infrastructure Projects. The bill ensures that taxpayer dollars are spent on our most critical infrastructure needs. Currently, just 75 percent of Highway Trust Fund expenditures go to core infrastructure projects, such as the 160,000-mile national highway system that plays a direct role in America’s economy. Instead, they’re diverted to non-economic projects such as beautification, bike paths, and sidewalk lighting. The bill eliminates federal mandates that currently force states to spend highway money on non-highway activities, helping to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent on our most critical infrastructure needs, not wasted on non-highway projects.
4. Speeds Up Bureaucratic Approvals, Cutting Permitting Time in Half. The bill speeds up bureaucratic approvals – the real hurdles delaying improvements to highways, bridges, and other projects – with reforms like concurrent review that will cut the project review and permitting process in half. Government bureaucracy and red tape in the approval and permitting process create
sneedless infrastructure project delays and cost increases. According to the Federal Highway Administration, projects can often take up to 15 years to complete. This is unacceptable. A more reasonable process is essential to using our resources more effectively. When a design flaw caused the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minnesota in 2007, the replacement was contracted for completion in 437 days and was completed ahead of schedule. The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act streamlines and condenses the project review process by cutting bureaucratic red tape, allowing federal agencies to review transportation projects concurrently, setting hard deadlines for federal agencies to approve projects, and delegating more decision-making authority to the states.
5. Eliminates Nearly 70 Duplicative Transportation Programs. The bill eliminates and consolidates nearly 70 surface transportation programs that are either duplicative or are not an appropriate role for the federal government. Currently, there are more than 100 federal surface transportation programs, many of which are duplicative and simply add to the federal bureaucracy. By eliminating and consolidating these programs, the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act helps ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely on high-priority projects to build and repair America’s roads and bridges.
6. Embraces More Private-Sector Involvement. The bill increases the value of infrastructure resources in various ways, including better leveraging existing federal funds and adopting policies that will attract private-sector involvement. One example is to build upon the successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act loan program, which leverages federal dollars with state, local, and private-sector funding to generate additional revenue for infrastructure improvements and job creation.