Hatch Calls on Congress to Pass Common-Sense Transportation Infrastructure Bill
Utah Senator Outlines Why Republican Legislation is a Better Way of Promoting Job Growth, Getting Transportation Infrastructure Rebuilding More Quickly; Proposal Includes Bipartisan Solutions Advocated by President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, called on Congress to pass S. 1786, the Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 that includes bipartisan recommendations from the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Hatch introduced the legislation as an alternative to Senate Democrats’ latest tax and spend proposal that includes a risky so-called “infrastructure bank.”
“The legislation that I propose accommodates fully paid-for infrastructure projects to be undertaken to help build roads, bridges, and a host of other projects without imposing permanent, job-killing, higher taxes during a national unemployment emergency,” said Hatch.
The Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 would speed up transportation construction projects, and provide employers with relief from burdensome federal regulations, without taxing job creators or adding a dime to the nation’s debt. The provisions included in the bill draw from bipartisan recommendations, including those from the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
A full copy of the speech, as prepared for delivery, follows:
Mr. President, while growth remains sluggish, unemployment high, and job growth insufficient to drive unemployment lower, the number of pages in the Federal Register is at an all-time high. Pages devoted to final rules rose by 20 percent between 2009 and 2010, and proposed rules have also risen by close to 20 percent to 2,439 in 2010. Of the 4,257 regulatory actions already in the pipeline, 219 are considered economically significant, meaning they are estimated to impose a cost of $100 million or more on the economy. By comparison, that is 28 more than this time last year, and 47 more than in 2009. In total, the Obama Administration has imposed 75 new major regulations costing over $38 billion annually.
The Minutes of the late-September meeting of the Federal Reserve monetary policymaking committee reveal that in talking to businesses and market participants, many contacts have “cited uncertainty about regulatory and tax policies as contributing to businesses’ reluctance to spend.”
If businesses are not spending because of regulatory uncertainty, then their customers will see lack of demand for their products. The lack of demand explanation for economic sluggishness offered by the administration and its Keynesian advisors begs the question of why there is lack of demand. While there are likely several reasons, the Fed clearly identifies one of them: uncertainty about regulatory policies.
Indeed, uncertainty regarding future regulatory policies as a contributing factor for business reluctance to hire and invest has been cited in Minutes of the past three policymaking meetings of the Fed’s monetary policymaking committee. And those identifying that such uncertainty is impeding job creation are American businesses, and not government bureaucrats insulated from the front lines of businesses and not their Keynesian advisors. They are the boots on the grounds in the American economy, the very people who create jobs.
The legislation that I am introducing seeks, in part, to ease the burden of federal regulations on businesses, including smaller and younger businesses whose vibrancy is critical for job creation, and to provide a rational regulatory decision-making process to provide greater certainty to businesses about the future regulatory environment.
Provisions in this Act represent ideas that have garnered bipartisan support. Indeed, many of the provisions follow directly from the President’s own Jobs Council—the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness—which, according to the Council, “was created to provide non-partisan advice.”
The Jobs Council presented recommendations to President Obama on October 11, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Those recommendations stem from the Council’s Interim Report titled “Taking Action, Building Confidence: Five Common-Sense Initiatives to Boost Jobs and Competitiveness.” Many of the provisions in this Act stem directly from recommendations in the Council’s report and from the report’s call for a more rational federal regulatory system.
Mr. President, allow me to offer some quotes and comments related to the President’s Jobs Council Interim Report recommendations in the context of this Act:
First, the President’s Jobs Council says that “The nation’s complex federal, state, and local permitting system can lead to unnecessary delays. In fact, large Department of Transportation projects can spend years getting the required Environmental Impact Statement process completed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”
I agree, and this legislation promotes more efficient regulation to rein in some of the burdensome federal red tape that stymies transportation infrastructure projects and job creation. At the same time, it fully recognizes environmental and safety concerns surrounding those projects. Relative to those concerns, the President’s Jobs Council remarks that “What’s gotten less attention, however, is the number of jobs at stake.”
Second, the President’s Jobs Council says that “…current markets face significant uncertainty—tax policy, pollution restrictions, and performance standards are all in flux…”
I agree, and this legislation serves to reduce some of that uncertainty and promote rational regulatory decision making, with Congressional review of rules and regulations that are of major economic significance and required approval of the very rules that would impose major costs on the U.S. economy and job creators.
Third, the President’s Jobs Council says that “…there is broad consensus that a key step towards jump-starting economic growth would be removing regulatory barriers and simplifying overly complex government processes. Their inefficiencies cost businesses time and money.”
I agree, and this legislation seeks, through rational regulatory decision-making and reviews, to remove unnecessary and costly regulatory barriers and provide simpler, more rational government regulatory processes.
Fourth, the President’s Jobs Council says, referring to Executive Orders to review regulations, that “Unfortunately, the Executive Orders mandating regulatory analysis and review did not apply to IRCs [Independent Regulatory Commissions], such as the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission because the law won’t allow it. While some IRCs employ economic analysis when crafting new regulations, many do not routinely do so. As an example, in 2010, IRCs issued 17 economically significant regulatory actions—16 of which were promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve System. None underwent the comprehensive regulatory impact analysis or included the cost-benefit analysis that is expected from executive branch agencies. The Council therefore recommends that legislation be passed that requires IRCs conduct cost-benefit analysis for all new ‘economically significant’ regulatory actions that may have an annual impact on the economy of $100 million or more as well as any significant guidance that meets the same threshold.”
I agree, and this legislation will provide Congressional oversight on any such performed by IRCs like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and other federal regulators for economically significant actions.
Fifth, the President’s Jobs Council says of its recommendations for economically significant regulatory actions that “These recommendations are not designed to weaken regulation or regulatory agencies, but rather to improve the rulemaking process, and to create more effective and less burdensome regulations that will promote economic growth and job recovery.”
I agree, and this legislation promotes a rational regulatory system with improved rulemaking oversight to create more effective and less burdensome regulations in order to help promote jobs growth. I agree, also, with the spirit of the Jobs Council remarks that efforts like this legislation, far from “gutting” regulations and “threatening safety,” will promote economic efficiency and renewed job creation.
The call for rational regulation and rulemaking is in no way a “gutting” of regulations or a sacrifice of public safety or environmental quality efforts. We all know that rules and regulations are quite likely to continue to grow and evolve. This legislation seeks only to put rational decision-making into the foundation of our regulatory and rulemaking processes that are too often driven by special-interests of largely unaccountable and fully unelected federal regulatory bureaucrats wishing to impose their preferences on American job creators.
Mr. President, proponents of the so-called infrastructure bank have actively cited, in recent advocacy speeches, findings from Global Competitiveness Reports of the World Economic Forum.
Well, if ratings from the World Economic Forum guides their views, and guides them to advocate hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer resources for a risky new GSE that they call an infrastructure bank, let’s look at what the Forum has to say regarding the United States:
First, in their recent Global Competitiveness Report, in what are called “the most problematic factors for doing business” in America, the top four factors out of 15 are:
• Tax Rates, number one;
• Inefficient Government Bureaucracy, number two;
• Access to Financing, number three;
• and Tax Regulations, number four.
Inadequate Supply of Infrastructure rates number 10, right below Policy Instability and Restrictive Labor Regulations.
There you have it. The Global Competitiveness Report that the administration and my friends on the other side of the aisle use to advocate a risky new infrastructure bank places taxes and inefficient government bureaucracy as the top two leading problems in doing business in America. Those are the top two factors that are holding back job growth, and a brand new risky infrastructure bank bureaucracy funded by permanently higher taxes would only make those problems worse.
By contrast, the legislation that I offer directly addresses inefficient government bureaucracy by acting to ease the inefficient regulatory burdens imposed on job creators by largely unaccountable and unelected federal bureaucracies throughout our massive regulatory agency maze and their special interests. And, I might add, those regulatory agencies seem clearly not to have job creation and easing of the plight of America’s 14 million unemployed workers as part of their main interests.
Mr. President, the legislation that I am proposing also provides for a fully paid-for Highway extension through 2013 that will give states and contractors the certainty that they need to begin large projects and create jobs.
It calls for an elimination of dedicated funding for transportation enhancements and gives states the authority to decide whether to spend resources on bike paths or other such transportation add-ons.
It reforms the National Environmental Policy Act—or NEPA—to eliminate inefficient bureaucratic environmental red tape and to accelerate project delivery and contracting, just as called for by the President’s own Jobs Council. It addresses the bureaucratic red tape associated with the NEPA that the President’s own Jobs Council identifies, and it contains reforms that have received the support of the Department of Transportation.
It includes a provision to stop Environmental Protection Agency rules that serve to drive up costs of concrete and steel, which are key ingredients in the road and construction projects.
It includes provisions for waivers of inefficient environmental reviews, approvals, and licensing and permitting requirements on road, highway, and bridge rebuilding efforts in emergency situations.
It imposes a regulatory time-out on regulations to help stem the regulatory tsunami that is impeding job creation.
Mr. President. We face a national jobs and unemployment emergency. It is truly a crisis. The Federal Reserve, the President’s own Jobs Council, and job creators in Utah and across America have made clear that onerous regulations and regulatory uncertainty are acting to cast a wet blanket on job creation in America. And the 14 million unemployed Americans are painfully in need of jobs. I and my fellow Republicans are listening.
The legislation that I propose goes straight to the matter in the interest of job creation now, not years from now once some inefficient new politicized unelected federal bureaucracy called an infrastructure bank is up and running to supply taxpayer funds to specially chosen and favored risky projects.
The legislation that I propose addresses the repeated calls from job creators who are stymied by inefficient, burdensome regulatory red tape derived from special-interest federal bureaucracies rather than the interests of American workers.
The legislation that I propose draws from bi-partisan recommendations, including recommendations from the President’s own bi-partisan Jobs Council.
The legislation that I propose accommodates fully paid-for infrastructure projects to be undertaken to help build roads, bridges, and a host of other projects without imposing permanent, job-killing, higher taxes during a national unemployment emergency.
Mr. President, I urge all of my colleagues in the Senate to support this legislation.