Tuesday, July 15, 2008

MN-02 : Kline Protest results in 8% Cut in Federal Dollars for Minnesota

The next time that your filling up your tank, remember that John Kline’s protest is sending your Minnesota tax dollars elsewhere.
That’s right.
For every gallon of gas that you buy, you pay a Federal Tax of 18.4 cents per gallon. Originally these tax dollars went into the general treasury, but since the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was established, it stipulated that 100% of the gas tax be deposited into Highway Trust Fund. Those dollars are then re-distributed back to the states. If your congressman is doing his job, all your Federal Tax dollars will be returned to your state resulting in jobs and well maintained infrastructure.

But John Kline decided to protest the system. The result according to Bob Hofstad of MnDOT is that the state receives about 92 cents for every dollar that its residents send to Washington. According to Tony Kellen, president of the Minnesota Public Transit Association, about 40 percent of the money in the state's transportation budget comes from the federal gas and diesel tax.

Now, Kline may give the impression since his favorite imported vodka is SurReal (from Latvia) that he would be a pretty savvy investor, but an 8% loss is not a good return on our tax dollars. Now, maybe private citizen investor Kline is okay with that, but these are our public dollars.

Kline’s concern is with the “earmark” system whereby Congress authorizes specific projects. We can all agree that there are many examples of “wasteful Washington spending” but not all “earmarks” are wasteful.

John Kline believes the “earmark” system is a broken process” and has pledged not to seek earmarks. According to Kline, the best way to fight an irrational process is not to take part in it but protest it, as a handful of other congressional members have agreed to do. Kline is now joined by Sixth District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in taking the “no earmarks pledge”.

Some may see that as a noble cause, but taxpayers should view this as unwise idealistic quixotical lonely persuit using our tax dollars.

There are better ways to address the abuses in the “earmark” system.

First District Congressman Tim Walz is a practioner of transparency in his funding requests. According to Walz, “Minnesota sends more money to Washington that it gets back, and it’s appropriate for us to advocate for the good use of tax dollars (in the district).
Walz stands up and fights for our dollars, while Kline is inclined to stand in protest.

As I wrote in August, 2007, members of Congress must work with state DOT so that monies are allocated based on the needs and not a Congressman’s personal vision.

So transparency and MnDot agreement is what is needed.

According to the Star-Tribune, Kline's rejection of earmarks has reverberations in Second District.

Voters need to consider Kline’s stance versus his challenger, Steve Sarvi … but also John McCain and Barack Obama.

McCain has vowed to veto all legislation that contains “earmarks” … another idealistic quixotical lonely persuit, but as President he could affect some spending. If he is successful, in theory, Congress will have no impact on how gas tax dollars are returned to the states … it is possible that our 8% loss could grow if the new McCain Administration deemed that infrastructure needs are greater in faster developing states like Arizona.

Barack Obama will address the infrastructure challenge by creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to expand and enhance, not supplant, existing federal transportation investments. This independent entity will be directed to invest in our nation’s most challenging transportation infrastructure needs. The Bank will receive an infusion of federal money, $60 billion over 10 years, to provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation. These projects will create up to two million new direct and indirect jobs per year and stimulate approximately $35 billion per year in new economic activity. link

The next president will enter office with a fragile economy. No doubt that some stimulus package will be suggested. One of George Bush’s first actions was in June of 2001 with the “Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001" which included tax cuts and rebate checks. McCain is talking of maintaining those tax cuts (and the other Bush cuts.) Obama may act instead to push investment in infrastructure that will produce jobs.

If Kline is re-elected and McCain is president, “earmarks” may be over … however if Kline is re-elected and Obama is president, Minnesota will have one Congressman standing in protest.

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