|3:25 PM EDT||
Don Young, R-AK
Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Madam Speaker, first, let me say I'm very supportive of this legislation. And I understand the fiscal responsibility. I understand that those that say we're taking $8 billion and we're not having an offset. Remember we, this body, borrowed the money. And I want to compliment Mr. Oberstar on the history of what occurred in 1998 and where we are today. So we're really paying back what we borrowed. And that's part of the principle about, I call it an obligation, a man's
word, or a woman's word, to someone else.
We borrowed that money from the taxpayers that paid at the pump, and very frankly, we spent it for other purposes, be it put the debt down, et cetera, that's not why we paid that 18.2 cents per gallon. We paid it for an infrastructure system.
Having said that, we have another problem. Our infrastructure is falling apart. When I was chairman of the Transportation Committee, I asked for a five-cent increased tax on gasoline. And very frankly, my side of the aisle and my President said, no, and we're further behind today than we were when I first suggested that. We ended up with $286 billion instead of $216 billion, but not nearly enough.
There's no one in this Nation today that can tell me that our transportation is keeping up. It is falling further behind each day, each day; and when we do that, we add to the debt of this Nation because our economy is based upon the ability to move product and people. If we can't do that, we have no economy.
The thing that hurts me the most, my good friends, in this energy crisis we have today and the high cost of energy, we're spending more money and more gallons of fuel sitting still than moving because we have congestion. That is not the economy this country needs.
I will say this to my new chairman, Mr. Oberstar. He has a huge responsibility, and I hope this Congress will listen. And whoever the next President is, we must address this issue of raising the dollars to improve the transportation system within this Nation.
Mr. Blumenauer said to the effect that no one's talking about transportation in this Presidential election. And I'm not being partisan here. Neither party's talking about transportation. If we do not do that, with the increase of the population we cannot have an economic base.
Lastly, let me suggest one thing. One of the reasons the money is not there and why we should pass this bill today is because we are spending less on gasoline because of the high price. And for those who do not want to drill, those who do not want to reduce domestic prices, think of what you're doing to the transportation system in this country. My chairman is going to have to come up with a way of funding. Maybe it's other than the gas tax. I don't know.
But we do have the automobiles. I don't care whether they're hybrids. I don't care what they are in saving fuels. We do have a transportation necessity in this country, and this body has not had the courage to go forth and have the vision of improving the transportation of the Nation for the future generations. We must do that.
This bill is a short step. It's needed. It's important, and it is returning what we borrowed; we, being the body of Congress, from the taxpayers at the pump. I have come from the old school that if you borrow it you pay it back, and that's what we're doing today to keep the largest driving force in this country going, the construction of our infrastructure, the improvement upon and then the repair. If we don't do that today, I'm sure we will, we'll make a great mistake.
But let's go to the future, the next highway bill. And those that are talking about we shouldn't spend it here, we shouldn't spend it there, there's no better way to spend the dollars of the American taxpayer than in an infrastructure for the future generations. It creates employment today, it creates employment in the future, and it takes and makes our economy strong forever.