Deficit Reduction

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Budget Showdowns, Government Shutdowns, and Paul Ryan's Proposal

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

You need to take on entitlements, but you also need to deal with the revenue side of picture. The fact that [Rep. Paul Ryan] left the Bush tax cuts intact certainly skews the program such that people who come out better are people who are richer, and people being asked to shoulder the burden are those on the lower end of the income scale.

John Heileman, national affairs editor for New York magazine, on The Brian Lehrer Show.

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Transportation Nation

Deficit Commission: Raise the Gas Tax. And Soon.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

(Washington, D.C. -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) The president's deficit commission is taking aim at the Highway Trust Fund in its quest to take a hatchet to federal spending and debt.

The report from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform--out just this morning on Capitol Hill--calls for $3.8 trillion in deficit reduction by 2020. It's a downright austere prescription including tax increases, spending cuts and other reforms designed to, as one member put it "right the fiscal ship" of the nation. The politically-charged document has politicians running to their ideological corners in anticipation of a brutal fight over fiscal policy.

But buried on page 21 of the report is a little gem that's sure to make the divisions just a tiny bit wider. Commission co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson call on Congress to raise the federal gas tax by 15 cents between 2013 and 2015, and in the meantime limiting national highway spending to the amount of revenue the fund takes in annually.

This would be a marked change from how the fund works now. Currently, contracts created in authorization bills are mandatory, while the money to cover them is discretionary. The result? According to Simpson and Bowles, are "budget gimmicks" that allow Congress to steer around spending rules and write more checks on the deficit for highway projects.

"Before asking taxpayers to pay more for roads, rail, bridges and infrastructure, we must ensure existing funds are not wasted," the report states.

The report calls for "significant reform" to control highway spending, including limiting that spending to high priority projects and doing away with transportation earmarks like the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska.

Whether or not these cries are heeded by Congress remains to be seen. The commission is scheduled to vote Friday on the recommendations, and few observers, including Simpson and Bowles expect it to get anywhere near the 14 votes that constitute a consensus among the 18 members.

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