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US Lawmaker Ties Gas Tax Break to Moratorium on Pork Projects
Legislation would trade freeze on pork barrel spending for a summer reduction in the federal gasoline tax.

Paul Ryan
A congressional Republican wants to tie the issue of gas tax relief to a moratorium on earmarked spending. US Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) on Friday unveiled his tax holiday plan before the House Budget and Transportation Committees. Over the past several years, earmarks have grown into a tool to force state transportation departments to build projects -- often unrelated to transportation -- in particular congressional districts. Most often, powerful members of appropriations committees and vulnerable incumbent representatives receive the greatest share of these projects. (View US Department of Transportation Inspector General report on earmarks.)

"By clinging to this broken earmark practice, Congress is picking pork over paychecks, and pork over potholes," Ryan said in a statement. "Simply saying no to earmarks for the remainder of the year could give folks... some relief at the pump this summer and fix the Highway Trust Fund's deficit."

Ryan's proposal would impose a nationwide suspension of the 18.4 cent federal gasoline tax from Memorial Day through Labor Day while actually increasing funding for the Highway Trust Fund. By changing House and Senate rules to prohibit introduction of earmark amendments, the legislation would achieve a savings of $14.8 billion -- more than would be lost by the suspension of the gas tax. A new Joint Select Committee on Earmark Reform would be responsible for ensuring members do not find ways to circumvent the spending moratorium.

Earmark reduction is a tough sell on Capitol Hill, but the Club For Growth reports thirty-nine House members and seven senators have signed a personal pledge to avoid earmarks. Often these earmarks divert gas tax away from road projects into spending on items including museums and trolleys.

"For far too long, taxpayers have been footing the bill for billions upon billions in wasteful Washington spending that our nation neither needs nor can afford," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in endorsing Ryan's bill.

The full text of the legislation is available in a 65k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File H.R. 5995 (Congress of the United States, 5/8/2008)

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