tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN February 10, 2015 1:00am-3:01am EST
burwell. and later white house budget diarrhea shaun donovan. the senate health committee hears from a panel of doctors about disease prevention through the vaccines. the hearing comes amid national debate whether vaccinations should be mandatory as several states deal with a current outbreak of measles. watch the hearing live at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. and the senate finance committee holds a hearing on the u.s. tax code. the witnesses are former senators bob packwood and bill bradley. both had a role in the 1986 tax deal reached under president reagan. that will be live on c-span3 at 10:00 a.m. eastern.
next a look at the proposal and the corn state transportation projects. from "washington journal," this is 50 minutes. >> today we continue our weekly look at how your money is being spent, taxpayer dollars. and this week focusing on infrastructure in this country. let me introduce you to chris edwards whose tax policy studies director at cato institute. robert pew win december, metropolitan policy senior fellow for brookings institution. robert, what grade would you give this nation's infrastructure? its bridges, its roads are what kind of condition is it in? >> there are some well-known assessments that show that this nation's infrastructure is in bad shape. just because of the age most of it is. we've built this system mostly throughout the 1950s 1960s. it just has to be maintained and rehabilitated. it's reaching the end of its useful life. we have to fix what's on the ground. we also have to build the kind
of infrastructure we need to compete in the 21st century. we look around the world, we see what other countries are doing with infrastructure to help with trade, to move passengers to move telecommunications, things like this. we see that the ups has a lot to do just to upgrade infrastructure we have on the ground today. >> okay so chris edwards what grade would you give it? >> it really depends on what infrastructure. there's mixed data on it. for example, politicians like to say bridges are falling down, for example. but there is good data from the federal highway administration showing that the number of american bridges that are structurally deficient has actually declined over the years. and our interstate highway system is actually in better shape in a lot of ways than it has been. the highways are getting more congested, it's true. in terms of the quality of the interstates and our bridges, they're in pretty decent shape. >> so robert puentes, you obviously disagree. so who should pay for what needs to be done; who should pay for
it, who's responsible? >> chris is exactly right we have to get more specific about the type of infrastructure we're talking about. because we have lots of different things. there's energy, telecommunications, transportation, even within transportation there's airports transit systems highways. there's all designed governed financed delivered so many different ways. we tend to overemphasize the federal role in a lot of this stuff. we look at the freight rail system which is the envy of the world over, it's entirely privately owned and operated. things like public transit the heavier public sector role. things like telecommunications are a mixed bag. so it really depends on who's using the system and who is the owner and operator. >> okay, let's talk about the highway system. how is it funded? how should it be funded? how to make it up that gap in funding? >> right now we have a lot of the money coming from the federal governments, probably the area where the federal government has the largest role to play. we fund a lot of the highway spending through the federal gasoline tax which has been raised since the early 1990s. even with highways and transit
it's only about one-third, maybe 30% of the money is coming from the federal government. the states the cities, the metropolitan areas are still responsible fare the lion's share of the spending. >> how are they getting the money to fund that if. >> lots of different sources. all 50 states have their own gasoline taxes. many of the states are willing to raise their own taxes. we saw eight states last year as different as wyoming and maryland raise their own taxes to pay for this kind of infrastructure. so it's a big country. infrastructure's a big toipic. it's funded in a lot of different ways. >> this is a topic congress has to wrestle with. they have to fund the highway trust and there's lechbls lation percolating out there. sounds like some republicans might be open to this idea of raising the gas tax. >> i don't think raising the gas tax is going to happen for one thing the president is not in favor of raising the gas tax public opinion polls show the american public is very much against that. think where president obama goes wrong in his new transportation plan is to increase federal spending in the centralization
of a lot of this infrastructure. i think we ought to let the 50 states be the laboratories of democracy and infrastructure. state governments can raise their own gas tax whenever they want. they can do more innovative reforms such as moving to privatization for their infrastructure. i think we ought to let the 50 states go their own way on things like airports, seaports, highways and transit. there's no reason for all the answers to come from washington d.c. >> what would that do competitively, though? you would have one state who spends significantly more than its neighboring state. i mean what does that do? we have an interstate highway system. so what does that mean for companies, trucking companies et cetera, that have to use this highway system? >> yeah, there's a good argument that the interstate highway system, there's an appropriate federal rule there. but a lot of the money in that federal highway trust fund actually goes, for example to mass transit, buses and light rail systems and subway systems in america's cities. in my view there's no real role for the federal government in
mass transit. state and see governments can and should raise their own money for their mass transit systems. i think when the federal government gets involved you get a lot of inefficiency and cost year runs and that sort of problem. >> some there be some sort of user fee for mass transit, highways? >> sure, and in fact i'm strongly in favor of user-funded infrastructure. the original idea with the interstate highway system that eisenhower steined into law in 1956 was a gas tax would pay for highway funding. and that's a good system. the people who use the infrastructure pay for it. unfortunately, over time, we've steadily moved away from that. president obama would move even further away from that sort of user-funded system by taxing corporations to fund our highways which i think is really the wrong way to go. >> let's take a look at the specifics of this. what the president proposed in his budget request to congress. $478 billion for the infrastructure. $238 billion from taxes on
foreign earnings. $240 billion from gas tax and other revenue. creates an infrastructure investment bank, includes tax incentives for private investment. robert puentes what did you make of his recommendation? would it work? >> there's a lot in here. >> would it work? >> in terms of finding the money to pay for it in terms of getting agreement throughout congress, throughout washington, it's tough to say. there's an awful lot that's in here. it's a lot of hon to spend. and by decoupling the funding with this idea for corporate tax reform, it does create some wrinkles in it i think folks are not ready to deal with right now. there are two parallel tracks. but finding the money to invest in infrastructure has been the big challenge. the obvious things like the gasoline tax, chris said it, political nonstarter right now. we can't keep kicking this can down the road. there is a crisis with the highway trust fund which is starting to rear its head where the trust fund is going to start to run a negative balance at the end of may. all 50 states are going to lose
from this. all 100 senators are going to feel from it their constituents. they have to do something. they're kind of running out of budget gimmicks. they'll probably figure out some way to take general funds, inject it into the trust fund. it just goes to show. this is a whole system where the user hasn't really paid for the system for a long long time. highways transit aviation. so having a different conversation about our transportation infrastructure really what do we need to invest in, by nesting that in the larger economical -- i think it's a conversation that we need to have. once we can put that vision independent behind it i think we'll see a very different conversation in washington. >> i think robert and i would probably agree, congress has been irresponsible with the highway trust fund. it spends about $53 billion a year, the gas tax revenues that go into it are around $40 billion a year. there's a giant gap that's getting more and more difficult for congress to paper over. i think president obama's been irresponsible in proposing a financing mechanism, this
corporate tax increase, that is not going anywhere in congress. so rather than proposing real solution, he's sort of claimed in his budget he'sing about to raise $278 billion from his tax on multi-national corporations. there's not a chance the republican congress would agree to that. so then we're stuck again. what to do about the giant gap in the highway trust fund. robert and i would disagree on the solution. i would cut the federal spending down to the level of the gas tax revenue as a permanent solution. but i think president obama really missed a chance here to propose a real solution. >> if you robert if the spending was cut down to what the revenue brings in, what would be the result, in your opinion? >> well, again, all states are going to lose on this. because they have money that's authorized and appropriated for them that they make these long-term decisions on. because these are not projects that they can just kind of turn on and turn off. it takes a lot of planning, it takes a lot of construction. so what's going to start to happen is the department of transportation, the federal department, will start slowing down their repayments to the states. so the states are already
starting to reassess projects that they need. so there might be a little silver lining here insofar as the states are starting to look very carefully at the spending they're doing and prioritizeingeing the types of investments they absolutely have to make right now, as opposed to those things that may be more as operational. >> is it worth doing that just coming out of this recession starting to recover, having a negative economic impact like that on states? >> i don't think it would be a negative economic impact. i think that state governments, they know better than the federal government how much spending they need to do on their transit and highways. there's no advantage, in my view, in the federal government spending the money. there's a lot of problems with that. you get more inefficiency when the federal government spends and you get this misallocation between the states. you get these fast-growing states like texas that have historically been cheated by the federal highway trust fund. so that make not sense to me. i'd rather state governments handle these decisions themselves. >> all right, let's get our viewers involved in this conversation. mark in porterdale, georgia,
independent caller. >> caller: good morning. >> morning. >> caller: yes, i would like the video -- the epa and the -- blue water. then we're talking about hijacking this money from the infrastructure to build these -- housing for the 40 cities for the illegal immigrants. how they're going to hijack it for transit and stuff for them in detroit and different cities, what they call future cities. and i've got the video. i'll put it on youtube if you don't know about it. and please answer, tell us about that. thank you. >> robert puentes? >> i can't say i know exactly what the caller's talking about. i do think there's a larger conversation happening in this country about the role of cities, happening globally, the role of cities and the role that infrastructure plays in maintaining a productive and sa intestinable kind of environment for these areas. we haven't really coupled the
transportation conversation with this larger discussion around sustainability and things the c-40 cares about and the things they're trying to push. so by putting all this together by putting mayors particularly in the driver's seat on how -- on the future of these places, really changes the calculus. because as chris was saying, what they're looking for is something very very specific. they have their pulse on what the cities need. and their deposit on things like sustainability, on economic health, is a very different conversation than what's happening in washington. >> here's a tweet from one of our viewers, lynn holly hansen. in terms of overall infrastructure the u.s. ranks 25th. along with declining education new companies will not move to the u.s. to invest. >> she's saying -- immight go that we ought to have a better infrastructure and i agree, we ought to have the best infrastructure in the world. i think there's difference -- differences of opinion as to how to get there. i think, for example some of the best infrastructure in the world has been privatized. so for example, the best seaports and airports in the world, in my view, have been
privatized in places like britain. one of the problems in the united states, in my view, that is a lot of our infrastructure is government-owned. all our seaports are government owned, airports are government owned. that's a mistake. i think the new thing, there's been reforms around the world, is to privatize. >> so what about privatization? >> there's absolutely a role for the private sector in areas of u.s. infrastructure. we've taken this very kind of bicameral approach to this. i think what we're starting to see is more of this mix and true partnerships between the public and the private and the nonprofit sectors where they're kind of co-inventing new ideas that are coming from the bottom up. in a lot of cases it's going to be with the private sector. so much infrastructure is already owned by the private sector. so it's starting to inject some of those new ideas some of those new innovations, and a lot of private capital into infrastructure which heretofore has been publicly sector driven.
>> we're talking about the nation's infrastructure. president obama proposing to spend $478 billion on highways bridges and mass transit. in the budget blueprint he released for 2016. what's your take on this? tony next in buffaloham, pennsylvania, democratic caller. >> caller: yes, good morning, greta. my concerns are sort of on line with your first caller. once this money comes through and they start the projects in comes the epa, in comes the environmentalists. how does this project affect the spotted owl? how does this roadway affect the migratory habits of termites? how does this bridge affect turtles? you know it's going to become a boondoggle, held up in the courts for years. the lawyers are going to get rich, the money's going to run out, and we're going to basically be in the same position we are today. >> okay i'll have both of you answer that. chris edwards, go ahead. >> i think the caller expresses skepticism about the efficiency
and skills of our governments and i think part of the solution here, again, is to decentralize the funding and operation of our infrastructure. let the states compete with each other over this infrastructure. if one state, if the environmental regulations or labor regulations are too stringent, then investment will go to other states and the states could learn best practices from each other. i think that's the way to help solve the problem. >> robert puentes? >> i think some of this is a bit of a red herring and overblown. we spend a lot of time talking about some of the environmental rules, regulations which do get in the way sometimes. but really the big challenge that we have is we're not really creating projects that have broad space port. if we have projects people really want to invest in and there's alignment between the civic sector and public and private corporate interests these projects get through without any problem. what we have to do is figure out projects that matter to these cities and metropolitan areas and a lot of these rules and regulations become derivative of the overall process. >> fred in idaho, republican
caller. >> caller: yes. hey, what happened to that $800 billion, $850 billion stimulus package earlier in the obama administration? i thought that was supposed to go for infrastructure. and somehow it's all disappeared. yeah, i'd like to know where it went. >> okay robert? >> well a lot of the tax -- the stimulus package had an awful lot in there for tax cuts. that was the biggest share. infrastructure was the second-largest share. we just came off of the campaign, such a long time ago now. it was really an emphasis on a clean, green recovery, and infrastructure was a big piece of that. when it came time to inject the money into these projects, it became clear all we had that was quote-unquote shovel ready, we had to put this money to work quickly, we had to stem the bleeding from losing american jobs, was a lot of these projects that were rehabbing the maintenance stuff that we had to do. the bridge repaintings, pothole refillings, the things that were
literally ready to go. because we don't have a good sense of overall investment needs, some of the big i think glitsy projects that folks thought we were going to get out of this had to be tabled because they weren't ready to go. shovel ready meant those things we were able to invest in in the immediate short-term to put americans back to work. >> why is there not adequate assessment of what needs to be done? >> every state has their own assessments, every metro area has their own assessments. 20 years ago there would be all kinds of projects that were third beltways, big projects that were not connected with their economic trajectory of these places. i think things have change in and out. there's lots of really good ideas about what the economy of these places looks like. and what kind of projects that they need to enhance those economies. we don't have any -- we don't have the resources right now. and we don't really have a good sense of where we're going to get them and what the proper mix of public and private money is to get it done. >> i think the caller's raised the issue of the stimulus and i think he raises -- there's an interesting issue here which is
i think there's been too much focus on short-term sort of job creation stimulus of some of this government infrastructure spending. the focus instead should oblong term efficiency. is the piece of infrastructure needed? which is the most efficient level of government to fund it? and that is more important than the short-term, any short-term stimulus. >> all right. glen shelton, washington republican caller, your question or comment about the nation's infrastructure? go ahead. >> caller: good morning. i have a quick comment about what the gentleman from the brookings institute said. i'd like to also ask a question of the gentleman from the cato institute. so when i hear myself on statements like investment and people are wanting to use the context of the government i don't want to digress, but we don't need the government to invest in anything other than the military and the absolute things that are absolutely needed. and so the off-ramps, isn't it where the funding for the whole federal highway system ends? so interstate highways funded by federal tax dollars don't they
end at the offramp? that's a question for the gentleman from the cato institute. thank you. >> the interesting thing about the interstate highway system, 50,000 miles of it, it's virtually all owned by state governments. and i think it's something for people to remember. if people are complaining about potholes and bridges falling down on the interstates, that sort of stuff the state governments own those highways. they are ultimately the first group that is most responsible is the state governments. currently, federal highway spending goes to the broader array of highways called the national highway system. 160,000 miles of highways. i think that's a mistake. i think one reform would be to start narrowing the types of highways that federal funding goes to. i think we ought to go back to the original idea and just use federal funding for the interstate highway system not these broader other secondary highways and certainly not mass transit. >> how much money are we talking about that the federal
government gives to states for their infrastructure needs? >> it's tough to assess. i think for highways it's about $40 billion, $50 billion, something like that. and again, as chris said, it's used for lots of different transportation purposes. >> do states get that money equally? is it split up, even pies? >> it's -- they've come to an agreement. that they've agreed to politically. that's based on this loose concept of donors and donees. the states want to get back as much money as they feel like they're contributing to the highway trust fund. mostly through gas tax receipts. because we've injected so much general fund revenue into the trust fund over the last bunch of years, through the stimulus, then through these bailouts that the government has had to do we completely blew that system apart. states that contribute a lot to the general fund are now kind of losing states like california and new york, we have this system that rewards states like texas and arizona that contribute more to the trust fund. we've really got to rethink this entire system. it's absolutely not equitable. >> is that being proposed up on
capitol hill? >> absolutely not. >> there's no conversation about that? >> that's off the table. it's not being talked about. >> something that has -- i find is very curious is that the federal highway -- the highway trust fund it does this misallocation between the states. some states are winners, some are losers. and it is odd that the loser states don't complain more. for example, florida and texas. for a long time consistently have given a higher share in gas tax money than they've got back in spending. it's odd that the texas and florida politicians don't complain more about that. then maybe we'll see that more in the future. >> newport, tennessee, tony, you're next, independent caller. tony, you're on the air. >> caller: yes hello. i've got a question for you if i might ask. -- here in tennessee right outside of morristown. they spent about $100 million on the 25 scenic route by
eliminating two lights. but they added six lights. they dug tunnels to go under -- you've got to actually go through a mall to get to the shopping center on the other side of 25e. and go through two lights to do that. coming off, if you come toward the end to the mall you've got to come off and almost commit suicide because one lane crosses another lane to get onto 25 with two lights to do that. it's just -- amazing. they closed the hardee's they closed the hotel closed the gas station to add two more gas stations and the hardee's to put it back. i mention those -- now the two lights they eliminated, there's six lights in its place. how did that make it becomes very dangerous in what they've done. >> okay, all right. chris edwards? >> the caller is discussing the efficiency or inefficiency of his local government
infrastructure spending. northern virginia i notice that local governments often seem to do odd and seemingly wasteful things with putting in new lights and changing sidewalks and that sort of stuff. i think the solution here is more transparency by local governments. it's often very difficult to find out how local governments are spending their infrastructure money. a few years ago in my neighborhood in northern virginia they repaved some streets in our neighborhood but not others. i called to try to complain. i couldn't get an answer. and there's no transparency in the current system. i think that is a solution for local government infrastructure. >> isn't that an argument for federal guidelines to have the federal government make these decisions? >> i think you'd be even more confusing with multiple levels of government involved in infrastructure. sort of like the same problem with education. every level of government is involved. so no one really knows who's responsible. >> robert puentes? >> i think we're starting to change. northern virginia is a great
example of a place where there's a lot of money coming in from the state and they're trying to do something very different. they're really trying to make sure those investments are measured. exactly what chris was saying. having it much more transparent about how they're choosing these projects and have them compared to one another. and if you're really trying to invest limited resources you have to get the best bang for your buck. if it's going to be a six-lane highway or whatever the taller was talking about in tennessee, those things have to be measured against other projects so we can make those kinds of decisions based on limited resources. it's starting to change but because the system has been on auto pilot for so long and the focus on congestion relief and mobility has been the frame, you know, by shifting transportation and making it more about economic growth, making it about accessibility, by trying to access economic opportunity, as opposed to just moving things around, it changes the kind of projects you pick. >> back to tennessee. don, a republican. >> caller: yeah. i got two questions. one of them is, we voted against a highway that runs in
sevierville, tennessee, into green county. it lost election twice. but still we got them going to put that highway through. if you lose it why should it go through? and another one is in ohio, it took 15 years to put a five-mile road through because the apa animal rights are fighting over the rattlesnakes or some little worm they was trying to save. and the wayne national forest didn't want to cut through it. it took 15 years to put a five-mile stretch of highway through there. i wonder why it took so long to waste money and why if you vote against something they still do it. >> okay, don, all right. robert, i'll have you go first. >> i think there's a lot of transition that's going on right now. i think states like tennessee are starting to re-evaluate the role of their transportation system in the larger goals and objectives for the states. but look you have governors that come in every four to eight years. they bring in a whole new set of
state transportation officials. and oftentimes things change. and projects that may have looked good 15 years ago may not look good to new administrations. but because we're going through this very disruptive time, demographically, economically environmentally, socially, all these changes are happening, are starting to give states a different look about what kind of transportation system they're trying to build. and the role of these projects and the role for overall economic growth. >> the caller's first point regarded why politicians would persist in trying to spend on a project when the people apparently didn't like it. one of the reasons you see that sometimes is because there's federal money involved. where i live in northern virginia, for years local politicians pushed for a new streetcar line which as someone who lived in the area i didn't think made any sense. a lot of people in the area didn't think it made any sense. but one of the reasons why local government officials wanted to go ahead was because it's federal money dangling out there, they thought they wanted to grab the federal money. i think you've got the federal money out of the equation, you'd get more efficient decisions. >> jean on twitter is asking
about that. do states have to use federal money for only roads? or can they also use it for mass transit? can they get a pot of money and say, we changed our mind, we're going to do this over here? >> the money is highly flexible. federal money that goes to the states, states are pretty much able to use it on almost any conceivable transportation purpose based on their own needs and objectives. the federal government targets it in their programs but there's an awful lot of flexibility the states have. >> caller: good morning. i'm glad you got me on. i appreciate c-span. i have a question for chris. it's not exactly a question, it's more of a comment. he wants the states to handle it. he needs to take a look at virginia, richmond, virginia and look at our road systems. we do not have a circle highway around richmond. we would not accept federal funds. we logical 288 the missed the
highway coming around by five miles. and we just started a new project going down to suffolk. and we spent $3 million on trying to get -- looking at going through west hanson didn't even do a good job on that. i think maybe the federal government has as good a hand as our local politicians. of course, local politicians do happen to get the roads where they need them. that's my comment. >> i think that politicians always have trouble making decisions at every level, and they're always compromising in certain ways. i do think that state politicians who can balance the pain of additional taxes to the benefits of the additional spending on infrastructure is the way to go. virginia's actually been interesting because they've been very innovative in finance. they've got a lot of private sector finance into their highway systems. so for example, northern
virginia, the capital beltway was bitened. in this project. putting in high-occupancy toll lanes for 14 miles. and that was a mainly privately funded system that came in on time and under budget. and it's been very successful. and down around the norfolk area there's been private infrastructure investment in bridges and hey ways. so that's been very successful. i think virginia's actually a lead over a lot of innovation and infrastructure. >> talking with chris edwards, tax policy, studies director at cato institute. we're joined by robert puentes, brookings institution, senior fellow for metropolitan policy program. our discussion part of our "your money" series we do here on "washington journal" on mondays looking at how your tax dollars are being spent. president obama proposing, requesting from congress $478 billion to be spent on highways, bridges, and mass transit. so robert, how do we know what
republicans will propose in their own budget? where are they coming in on infrastructure spending? >> i think it's along the lines what was chris was talking about. there's really desire to try to get these programs to live within the means of the revenues that are coming in. but it's such a unique system with the transportation program. because we've had this dedicated firewall system. when the americans were paying a lot in the gas tax revenue, we were driving more and more money, it was throwing off so much revenue we had to firewall the program so it wasn't being siphoned off into other areas of the domestic budget. now it's flipped. americans are driving less. they're driving much more fuel efficient cars. it's not throwing off as much revenue. we have to go the other way, trying to fill it in with general funds. it's this big conflict that's going on how do you take this program that has been so separated from the rest of the budget conversations and do what most other countries do making discretionary decisions every year based on revenues that are coming in. not just the gas tax revenue. if these are areas that are important to the domestic
government, or to the government here, how do you choose this? how do you make these decisions based on defense spending or mandatory spending and things we have to do to get a program that we need? >> chris, what do you make about what republicans are talking about and thinking about doing? >> well, the infrastructure spending area is an interesting area because it's less partisan than a lot of other spending areas in washington. so for example, we have a bill proposed by senator rand paul, republican and barbara boxer, democrat that would help to -- it would put this voluntary additional tax on corporate earnings that would then be used to fill in the gap in the highway trust fund. you get other sorts of bipartisan legislation. there's legislation to reduce the federal gas tax and reduce federal spending, for example. so i don't know what the republicans will propose. but i know that they're not going to go in the direction of the obama proposal i'm afraid. >> michigan, tim, democratic
caller. >> caller: yes. first, i'd like to comment on some transparency that never seems to evolve. we always say if people from the cato institute, the hudson institute, and all these other think tanks. i'd like to know exactly who these guys are, what do they do, how much money do they pay? it seems to me that when i grew up, dwight eisenhower did a bang-up job as far as getting transportation moving around the country. and all we need to do is follow his formula and get rid of these paid schills. >> chris, care to respond? >> the cato institute's been around since the 1970s. we get no government funding of any sort we're privately funded by individuals mainly. we hardly get any corporate money. we get some foundation money. in a lot of ways we're modelled on the brookings institution which has been around since the 1920s, i think. independent think tanks are
important for the policy discussion in washington. you can't trust everything the politicians say so you need an independent voice. >> we don't take federal money for any of this work. even though we're a washington-based think tank at brookings, our metropolitan policy works outside of washington in cities states, metro areas across the country. at this time of really challenging discussions here in washington, we think that the cities and states and metro areas are doing the hard work to put this country back to work and to create the innovation that we think eventually will make a difference here in washington. but right now all the game seems to be outside this beltway. >> our line for democrats, trish in seattle, good morning. >> caller: hi, good morning. i'd just like to comment on chris' idea of privatization on developing the infrastructure. here in seattle we have a big project going on on mercer street which is now going to be called billionaire boulevard because that's access from the
i-5 down to amazon and microsoft and all the other burgeoning tech development biotech is down there as well with fred hutch. and i just always thought it was interesting why the taxpayer are we paying for all that new roadway, traffic disruption to get all those people to amazon microsoft, et cetera? and what am i getting out of that? in the meantime -- >> soar. i, thought you were done sorry go ahead. >> that's an odd complaint. the caller seems to be complaining that the local government is responding to increased demand for automobile traffic because of the booming local economy. i would have thought that's an example where the local government is doing what's good for the economy and good for most of the folks in the general public which is making -- easing commutes for people to work for these very important
companies. >> windsor locks connecticut, ross, indiana caller. >> caller: hi. my comment is along these lines. the call in congress for the pipeline, the excel pipeline, they keep talking about how many jobs it's going to create. and yet we know it's controversial. couldn't we take that money and put it into infrastructure that we know has to be done for roads, and if they keep arguing about jobs we could create as many jobs, i'm sure maybe more, working on roads instead of putting in a pipeline, which is very, very controversial. and may not get done. and it seems to me restoring our infrastructure, restoring the bridges and roads, is a necessity. >> okay, all right. robert puentes, do you think that the keystone pipeline is a valid infrastructure project? >> well, i mean, the caller started saying -- mostly it's a private project. the role of the government is
for approvals and things like that. it's private money it's not going to be able to be shifted to roads or anything in the way the caller's thinking about it. i think the focus on jobs is the right one. because infrastructure puts a lot of americans to work. 11% of the american workforce is directly involved in occupations in infrastructure. it's not the guy cutting the -- the people doing the work. we emphasize a lot of construction jobs. short-term jobs that the pothole filling kind of cliche. but most of these jobs are in operations. these are long-term, sustained jobs difficult to outsource. and actually pay very well at the lower ends of the scale. so a lower quintile job in infrastructure pays better than lower jobs in other sectors. it really is very, very connected to the american workforce conversation but it has to be bigger than giving a guy a shovel having him do a short-term project. it's about long-term employment in this country. >> the keystone xl pipeline
going back into the house this week for a vote. then go to the president's desk where he said he will veto it. it will be the president's third veto this week on the keystone xl pipeline. not just on keystone, his third veto overall. >> one of the things the caller raises infrastructure is not just a government thing. most infrastructure in the united states is actually funded and put in place by the private sector. i think about all the cell phone towers and the internet pipes and electric utilities and electricity transmission towers. all that stuff is privately provided. when we think about infrastructure policy, we should also be thinking about how we can reduce barriers to private sector investment. >> pine grove, pennsylvania, sterling, democratic caller, you're on the air. >> caller: yeah, my problem is i worked 40 years construction. and i live in pennsylvania. i worked in jersey delaware, virginia. and the federal rate i think is ridiculous.
i worked my last five years down in philly. the rate down there to run a backhoe, and that was freaking ten years ago the rate was $61 an hour. now, when i worked in delaware years ago, the rate down there was $15 an hour. i think -- really, i couldn't understand. i was in my own business years ago with my own backhoe. i thought it was crazy to charge somebody $61 an hour to run my own backhoe. so if i'm making $61, imagine what the corporation's making. and i don't understand why the rate's so different. you go to new jersey or new york, now you're talking almost $100 an hour to run a backhoe. or heavy equipment. >> okay, robert can introduce address that? >> it's a big country. every state does have their own rules and regulations. the caller's exactly right. some things like insurance costs in new york state are much higher and so it takes up a larger share of the contract costs and the project costs.
in other states it's much less. so the caller's exactly right. i think where chris was going, we talked early bear getting much more transparency about really what goes into these contracts. how much are we spending on these projects? then we can start to make better decisions. it starts with transparency. >> there is a priority list of infrastructure needs in this country? down to the specific? this bridge versus this bridge? >> no, not really. because we haven't really nested the conversation in the larger infrastructure frame. the president has an economic goal to double exports in five years. exactly the right kind of economic strategy we need to take advantage of rising global demand. do the next step and couple that with infrastructure investments we need to double exports. things like ports, freight. absolutely perfect area for the federal government to be practice where heretofore they've been absent because we don't have a national freight policy. it's derivative of a larger economic strategy. once we can nest it and it's not just infrastructure for infrastructure's sake we'll
start to see better projects. >> i would differ a little from robert. if you look at freight rail, for example, it has been a huge booming success for the american economy since freight rail was deregulated back in 1980. i don't think we need sort of a national plan or washington plans for freight rail. the private rail companies are doing an awesome job by themselves. and i think we should go in that sort of direction for seaports. i think sea ports ought to be privatized and they ought to compete with each other so baltimore can compete with norfolk and new york and los angeles. i think that's a good thing. some of the best seaports in the world, like in hong kong, they are private self-funded. i think that's the way to go. >> jennings, louisiana. david, independent caller. >> caller: yes. i was just wondering how the gas tax is alotted to the different projects. does that go into a general fund like i'd read eight or ten years ago? it was close to a billion
dollars between the oil companies and the gas tax and everything. a trillion, not a billion. and why is all that being collected and then nothing's going toward transportation? >> okay chris edwards, do you want to explain how it works? >> the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon. it goes into two pots of money in the highway trust fund. about 80% goes to highways. 20% goes to mass transit. in other words city bus and rail systems. so that's the basic split. 80% highways, 20% for mass transit. >> jim in pennsylvania, democratic caller halifax, pennsylvania, go ahead. >> caller: yeah. good morning. we just -- our governor tom corbett just substantially raised the gas tax for this. and i was wondering what percentage actually goes towards the improvement of the infrastructure. and i was also curious on --
here a few years ago we had a tractor-trailer driver truck driver smashed a bridge, burnt the bridge up. and i understand that we the taxpayers of pennsylvania, helped bail that insurance company out. i was curious about this. is the infrastructure money also to go to bail out insurance companies like we bail out wall street and we bail out the oil business? that's my question. >> okay, jim. robert? >> every state has their own rules how they spend the gas tax revenues that they generate. it's not just gas taxes in most states. we have all kinds of different fees that go into their transportation budgets. registration fees, things like this. there's lots and lots of different sources. cigarette taxes, all kinds of things. each state allocates it in their own way. i don't know about the example
with the accident there in philly and how they dealt with the insurance companies. i suspect it was probably from a different pot of money and some other different sources the state had to pull together. i'm not familiar with that project. >> smiley on twitter, if the private sector wants to invest in infrastructure don't you think they should pay for upkeep instead of taxpayers? >> they do and that's generally the way it works. for example in northern virginia private companies came in and helped mainly finance the widening of the capital beltway with high-occupancy toll or electronic toll lanes. those companies not only financed mainly financed and built the highway in northern virginia, they will be responsible for the maintenance and operation for decades to come. and that as i think robert has written in his studies it's a good way to do it. because if the same company is building and financing and operating, they can aim at long-term efficiency. which is often something that you don't get with the typical government contract. >> is it true for the railroads
as well? those companies that -- >> absolutely. the railroads generally fund their own freight rail systems. amtrak uses some of the freight rail. i'm not sure some of the -- whether the federal government or amtrak subsidizes some of it. mainly the frail ray companies build their own infrastructure maintain it run the rate. >> we'll hear from glen next, a republican in tallahassee, florida. >> caller: yes, thanks to c-span. just wanted to know what is the impact of the davis bacon act on the cost of infrastructure construction in the country? >> okay, robert? >> caller: and wouldn't it be a good idea for congress to just do away with that law? >> okay. glen? >> i don't think so. we're trying to make sure that workers are getting adequate wages in order to work on some of these projects. and this is a matter of public
policy. it's a nice connection between money that's being spent from the policy level to getting the goals and be aabjectivesbe a objectives we want to achieve. how it's awe all commingles. it's very ripe right now. i wouldn't throw it overboard right now. we've got to make sure the workers who are getting paid for these projects are getting paid adequately. >> do you agree? >> davis bacon was a law that basically says if you're building a transportation project like a highway project with federal money, then you must pay essentially union pages, -- wages which are often higher. there has been a study a few years ago that showed this pushes up the wage costs on federally funded highway projects by about 20%. if it's up to me i would repeal the davis bacon laws. i think construction workers ought to be paid in the market system like everyone else is paid. and i think that would reduce the cost of building and
maintaining highways which would be better for everybody. >> okay. jim, oxford, maine, republican. >> caller: good morning. >> good morning. >> caller: the previous caller asked the same question i was going to bring up the davis bacon act. if it's federally funded, they've got to pay much more than if it's state funded. so there again, it makes a lot more sense for the states to do it themselves. the other question i have is, i don't know if this law is still in effect, but i know many years ago, back in the '70s when they were building route 495 in massachusetts, after that was built, it was brand new, they were going to lose their federal funding. i guess set amounts back then. so every year for many years they repaved that road over and over and over. and they near stopped repaving it until they had the big dig project in boston so they could continue getting their federal funds for that. >> okay, jim. robert? >> i don't know about the 495 project. it's tough weather up there in massachusetts. cold weather is pretty bad for
highway infrastructure. you have to maintain it over and over again when it frays and cracks and stuff like that. but it's interesting on the davis bacon, on the jobs piece. there is another conversation going on now trying to link infrastructure spending to different kinds of outcomes. and we do a lot of spending through low-cost bidding. if you come in as a contractor, you bid low, you get the money. because we're such a desire to link infrastructure spending to other areas of public policy we're trying to make sure that other things are coming with this spending. and so cities across the country are trying to put people back to work, particularly low-income workers. and so trying to make sure that things like public transit money is coming in if you're a contractor and you want to build something in a certain area that you actually get credit for that. and we're not just basing contract awards just on low-costed bying. if you're going to come in put people to work, train a workforce, oar going to give them additional skills, you should get credit for that. and that's what's starting to happen in a lot of cities around
the country. >> yvonne in national city michigan, democratic caller, go ahead. >> caller: yes. our governor snyder wants to raise our income tax. i mean sales tax. to 8%. he says for the roads and the school. then he wants 54 cents on a user tax on the gas. and he wants 24 cents on the gas tax. now, will the government on top of that raise more taxes on the gas? >> chris edwards? >> yeah governor snyder's bid to raise the gas tax is sort of curious. michigan is a state where the population isn't growing very much. i can understand why fast-growing southern states want to raise more money for infrastructure. but -- so i haven't look the into detail in michigan but it is surprising to me that a state that's had a fairly stagnant population would want to raise so much money for infrastructure. on the last caller's point, i
would agree with him, his theme was that the federal government injects a lot of inefficiency in state highway spending. i know, for example with the big dig, which was about two-thirds federally funded, that i believe that the federal money in the big dig project was one of the reasons why it ended up costing far more than it was originally estimated to cost. i think when federal money is involved, state governments, they don't spend their money as efficiently. >> we have to leave it there because we are all out of time. chris edwards with the cato institute, go to downsizing government.org. robert puentes with the brookings institution,
>> grow testing levels of incoming wealth inequality. when climate change in this country, but the entire planet. when you have a handful of billionaires in the process of dying in our police department i think it is important that we have candidates who are prepared to take on the big-money interest. so i am giving serious thought to do that. don't tell my wife that. she'll leave me. she doesn't necessarily agree. >> itell her to turn off the tv right now. >> on the other hand, those are our political realities. that is when you take on the billionaire class, it ain't easy. if i do something, i want to do it well.
it's ees's important not just for my ego, but it's important for millions of people who share the same set of believes. we would have to put together the strongest estest grassroots movement. enough is enough. . >> there is a lot of sentiment that the establishment, whether it is the economic establishment, the political establishment, all the media establishment is founding the american people.
and you have two million people say, you know what we're going to put a hundred bucks into the campaign. and, by the way in my senate race, you know what my average contribution was? $45. so if you had 2 million people, phenomenal response. putting in a hundred bucks, that's $200 million. that's 20% of what the coke brothers are prepared to send. can you take that on? i don't know. maybe we've gone over the edge. i don't know. i surely hope not. but we have to look at that reality. >> and last on that issue when candidates run for president, they often have two objectedives. the first objective obviously, is to win nominational election.
looking at about $13.3 trillion. when i was working with sylvia, they disgust me, and in my opinion they don't work. if i run, and if secretary clinton runs, what i would hope would happen, is that we would have a real serious -- this is a woman i respect, clearly a very intelligent person, who i think is interested in issues, by the way. and i think we would have a debate about how you rebuild a crumbling middle class, a debate about how you reverse climate change. a debate about foreign policy and the wisdom in the war in iraq. a debate about trade policy, a debate about wall street. and that would be, i think, good for the american people to be honest with you, it is not my style to trash people. it is not my style to run ugly negative ads. never have, never will. >> would you register as a democrat?
>> it's a decision i have yet to make. i go around the country, there are a lot of people i say, look, the republican party, democratic party, they are the same, you have to start outside of the two party system. a lot of people feel that way. other people then say, well, you have to run -- you've been in the democratic caucus since i've been in congress. and if you want to go where the action is, and you want to be in the debates, you want to get media attention, and so forth, have you to run. that's the issue i'm talking to a lot of people about. >> you can see all of this event tonight at 9:05 on c-span. also see all of our road to the white house coverage any time on
our video library, c-span.org. >> new congress, best access on c-span, c-span2 c-span radio and c-span.org. >> president obama's fiscal request poses $84 bimon for discretional funding for the health and human services funding. hhs secretary burr well recently appeared to talk about the plan. she also took questions on implementing the health care law and the upcoming supreme court case the challenges of stax credit subsidies. >> good morning it's a pleasure to welcome everyone to today's
hearing on the fils k58 year 2016 budget for the dp of health and human services, hhs. i want to thank you, secretary burwell for being here with us today. this is your first hearing before the committee since being confirmed. at that time we also discussed three main areas that i encouraged you to focus on during your time at hhs. responsibility, acountability and independence. i'd like to talk more about each of these areas today. let's talk about responsiveness. i raised the importance of being responsive to congress and to this committee in particular. you assured me that this would be a top priority of yours, as well, and that under your watch we would see a marked improvement. in the past year of this
committee, written at least 20 letters asking questions about serious issues such as fraud prevention hacking of health care medic expansion and many others. i understand that we have not received answers to nearly every one just in time for your appearance here today with the last few responses coming just last week.
>> the total budget has more than doubled that. my concern is that the savings and deficiencies in the orr all hhs budget are very small when compared to the overall spending. the president's proposed budget would save just over $250 billion over the next decade. on the policy front the 5d min straegs needs to be up front.
myself and others on this committee. senator? >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary burwell let me start by saying that my assessment is that you have set a new bar for cabinet secretaries in terms of reaching out and trying to be responsive. i hear about it with respect to citizens. apparently, you're in, virtually, every corner of the country taking your family. i can only imagine the challenge of that. you're getting back to senators conservatives, liberals saying the secretary actually got back to me. it's, like such a quaint idea that somebody would actually do that. and i understand you've got discussions either coming or have already begun with governors. so my sense is you have really set a new bar in terms of reaching out and it is obviously very, very welcomed. now, too many people in america,
including millions in our country and in my home state, feel like they're falling behind. they just feel like as the economy picks up steam, they're not getting ahead. and it's our job to make sure that doesn't happen and the finance committee has played a big role in this. it's almost like having a triple header this week. we have mr. cofskin in yesterday, you and secretary lou in tomorrow. and the budget obviously articulates the priorities of today. but it also talks a lot about what our priorities are for the future. and we're looking sforward to having you lay out how the proposal would strengthen health and human sfszs programs, promote economic mobility and assist our middle sclasz families. i do want to take a minute just to talk about where i believe american health care has been.
and then talk briefly about where it's going. the congress came together to create the c.h.i.p. program. congress has improved and expanded medicare and medicaid. the affordable care act makes access to high quality care wider than ever. and what i think is particularly important, it has signalled that america is not willing to go back to the days when health care was for the healthy and wealthy. that's the way it was when you could go out and cloeber the people with a preexisting condition. obviously, the job is not done. so there is a twofold challenge in my view first protective progress has been made. and secondly, more progress in the future.
needs are clearly different than they were 50 years ago. the big ticket medicare costs of 2015 are no longer things like kidney stones and broken ankles. they're chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes and adds hyper's. and those conditions are tougher and more costly to treat. the hhs bucket clearly has a lot more to do. clearly, the future of the medicare program. what's needed is a road map that boldly movers away. patient and providers stold about the need this summer. there's bipartisan support for this new congress.
i look forward to making you and the administration a part of that reality. i was also thinking last week about precision medicine. this, too, helps to provide a road map for the future. medical professionals understand that a treatment will often affect susan in a different way than it affects george. and with the right rezeshlg. it's going to be possible to learn what drives those differences and how to tailor individual differents to meet a patient's needs. we've got another big challenge. the next step would be to design
a payment system for this innovative field, precision medicine that can do so much for the future of patients and for taxpayers. the president's budget proposal also continues the progress made by the affordable care act or the quality of care rather than the kwaubt. the president's proposal takes a vital step for c.h.i.p. a child who starts life with quality health insurance has a better shot at a successful middle class life than a child who doesn't. reviewing c.h.i.p., in my view is a no-brainer. families are waiting for the
congress to step up and act on c.h.i.p. there are also steps the congress can take to guarantee that our health programs remain strong for generations to come. that our lifelines. as a result, millions of families will never have to choose between paying for a loved one's care and sending kids to college. millions of americans will grow up to access to quality care that keeps them healthy and out of the emergency room whenever possible. it's important to remember that health department and human services does a lot more than medicare medicaid and c.h.i.p. just over five months ago congress helped turn this bill from a piece of paper signed by the president into new tools
that will help states move more vulnerable kids out of larm's way and into safer and permanent homes. build on this momentum to keep kids and families together with a special focus on getting involved early with vulnerable families to programs like home visiting. and this is specially important for the first-time parents. so in effect we're talking about multigenerational supports. we are talking about the people who are trying to get ahead. thank you for joining us here.
i'll have some questions, but i do want to wrap this up with having been in life and worked with a number of secretaries, i think at the end of the day there are going to be a big number of differences of opinion. in the clinton administration served as deputy of chief of staff to the president chief of staff to the treasury sec stair and staff director at the national economic council. all of which are very important positions. she also has extensive private
sector experience ms. burwell received her ab from oxford university where she was a road scholar. we want to thank you for being here today and you can proceed with your opening statement. thank you, thank you to the members of the committee for having me here today. i want to thank you for the opportunity to discuss the president's budget for health in human services. from preventing and treating substance abuse to building an innovation economy and strengthening the middle class. the budget before you makes critical investments in health
in terms to providing all americans with access to squat affordable health care it builds upon our historic process for improving coverage for family who is already have insurance. it extends c.h.i.p. for four years. and it improves access to health care for native americans. it supports more than 15000 national health core service clinicians. with the funding streams ending in 2016 millions stand to ruse if we're not able to take
action. to advance our common interest in building a better, smarter and hemt e healthier delivery system, it supports the way care is delivered, providers are paid and information is driblted. on an issue for which there is bipartisan agreement it replaces medicare's flawed, sustainable growth formula. it increases n.i.h. by $1 billion. in addition, it invests $215 million for the precision initiative. focused on developing treatments
taylored to the genetic characteristics. to further our common interests in providing americans with the building blocks of healthy and productive lives, this budget outlines an ambitious plan to make affordable quality child care available to working and middle class families with young children. its score strategies of prevention, detection and response. it also invests in behavioral health services. it includes more than 99 million
to combat prescription open yoid dependence and overdose. where he e we're also addressing our medicare back load. for providing americans with the building blocks of healthy and productive lives and delivering impact that allows everyone to share in the prosperity of a growing america. as i close, i want to assure you that i am personally responding to communication from members of congress. we've made progress we can do more. i want to take a moment to thank
the employees of hhs. thank you. with that, i'm happy to take your questions. >> thank you, ms. burwell. as you know the supreme court will soon decide the legality of regulations from health department insurance subsidies to individuals in states with federal exchanges in the king-burwell case. it is in my opinion that the regulations vie late the constitution.