A picture of Representative Garret Graves
Garret G.
Republican LA 6

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  • Conference Report on H.R. 22, Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015

    by Representative Garret Graves

    Posted on 2015-12-03

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    Read More about Conference Report on H.R. 22, Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015

    GRAVES of louisiana in the house of representatives Thursday, December 3, 2015 Mr. GRAVES of Louisiana. Mr. Speaker, while I support the policy merits of this bill, I have strong concern about some of the funding mechanisms used to help pay for it. The concerns include provisions for drawdown and sale of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), selling 66 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to provide $6.2 billion in offsets over 10 years.

    As is often the case, what we have accomplished here is nothing more than an unsustainable budget gimmick. As adjusted for inflation, the average price per barrel of oil currently stored in the SPR is $74. At a time when the global price of oil hovers at less than $40 a barrel, and as OPEC continues to produce and flood the global market at historic rates, with no end in sight, I simply do not see how we can budget the sale of SPR oil at $94 per barrel on average over the next 10 years to total $6.2 billion in revenue. Our SPR was never intended as a budget gimmick, it is [[Page E1759]] about our energy and national security. Despite our record domestic production of crude oil, I believe it is irresponsible to use a vital national energy security asset as a budget gimmick.

    Besides the fact that the math simply doesn't add up, I philosophically oppose the increasing tendency of the federal government to reallocate money intended for one purpose to then fund unrelated policy initiatives. It is disingenuous and irresponsible. And in the case of the surface transportation bill funding mechanisms, this approach is symptomatic of a larger problem.

    The Highway Trust Fund was designed to be funded primarily through a user pays, user benefits model in the form of the federal gas tax. The increased fuel efficiency of vehicles, in conjunction with several policy and regulatory factors, has gradually eroded the gas tax's ability to keep pace with investment demands over time.

    Mr. Speaker, it is critical that we begin work now to modernize the funding formula for the Highway Trust Fund and return to a user pays model. The longer we turn a blind eye towards addressing the user fee model, which has not been adjusted since 1993, and continue to ignore the need to build a 21st century funding mechanism reflective of the technological advancements at our disposal, the more fearful I am of passing a sustainable, long term investment to address our nation's ailing infrastructure in the future.

    I applaud the chamber on its work to pass this 5-year bill, and I look forward to continuing work to ensure the next bill is more fiscally responsible, adhering to a paid for measure more closely aligned to a user pay, user benefit system.


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