« ПретходнаНастави »
SENATE DEBATE–OCTOBER 17, 1977
H.R. 8309—RIVERS AND HARBORS AUTHORIZATIONS Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, have we received a message from the House on H.R. 8309?
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. It was received Friday last under the authority to receive messages.
Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that H.R. 8309 be considered as having been read twice.
Mr. LONG. I object.
H.R. 8309, an act authorizing certain public works on rivers for navigation, and for other purposes.
Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, a parliamentary inquiry.
Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, is it correct that based upon my request and the objection to it, and with the bill having been read, as it was, for the first time, that the next event that will occur is that if the Senate adjourns it will then be read for the second time, unless there is objection?
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Objection will not lie. After the adjournment of the Senate and the Senate reconvenes, it will be read the second time.
Mr. DOMENICI, I thank the Chair.
Mr. President, I have taken action that I hope will lead to the placing of H.R. 8309 on the Senate calendar. This is not an effort to circumvent the rights of any Member. But because the Senate has considered these issues at great length earlier this year, my action seeks to facilitate the most prompt action possible on this important legislation.
H.R. 8309 involves two interwoven issues: Proposals for establishment of a waterway users charge, and the reconstruction of locks and dam 26 on the Mississippi River at Alton, Ill. The Senate resolved our position on these issues 4 months ago, on June 22. I do not believe that these issues need be delayed further by a complicated referral procedure that would probably involve three committees, with multiple reports back to the Senate.
These issues have been before the Senate for a year. Last autumn, the threat of a filibuster forced the removal of two similar provisions from a then-pending water resources bill. At that time, the distingusted chairman of the Water Resources Subcommittee, Mr. Gravel, and I pledged to our Senate colleagues that we would work in committee to reach an early resolution on these issues.
We achieved that objective, I believe, by reporting S. 790 to the Senate earlier this year. S. 790 was then attached on the Senate floor to a new water resources bill, S. 1529. The Senate substituted the language of S. 1529 for the language of a water resources bill out of the House (H.R. 5885), asked for a conference, and appointed conferees. The House never responded to that request for a conference.
Instead, the House took a course designed to avoid consideration of the Senate-passed version of H.R. 5885. The House developed this new bill, H.R. 8309, in the apparent hope that the Senate's position on waterway user charges, embodied in H.R. 5885, would die or be forgotten without a fair hearing in conference.
By asking now that this new bill (H.R. 8309) be read and placed on the calendar, I in no way wish to bypass any Senator or any committee. But I believe that placing the bill on the calendar will encourage all of us to act with dispatch and to move ahead with consideration of waterway user charges, to get to conference during this session, and to resolve the issues finally before the adjournment.
While the differences between the Senate and House approaches is significant, they can and must be resolved quickly. The House calls for a recovery rate from the barge industry of less than 10 percent of what the taxpayers spend annually on inland waterway improvements benefiting the big barge companies. The approach already adopted by the Senate calls for a decade-long phasein of a user charge related directly to the level of expenditure, retaining a 50-percent taxpayer subsidy on new construction. That subsidy, I might add, is a far more generous Federal handout than that which is given to communities for a water supply project, or to a farmer buying Federal hydropower, or to competing systems of transportation .
When H.R. 8309 is brought up on the floor, I shall propose to substitute the language already adopted by the Senate, language the House has sought to ignore. My amendment will not alter the fuel tax provision in the House bill; rather, the fuel tax would be a credit against user charges due under the Senate-passed approach. Mr. President, I believe such an approach will result in a fair and reasonable solution.
And I believe that my approach is the only one that will assure passage into law of an authorization for the construction of locks and dam 26. We all know that the administration has opposed user charges as low as those contained in the House bill. To reach the goal of the waterway industry, and to assure a more balanced national transportation policy, I believe it is in the interest of all of us to act quickly on H.R. 8309, and to reiterate our Senate position by repassing the Senate's comprehensive waterway user charges amendment.
I can assure my colleagues that if my amendment is adopted, I will work day and night to obtain an early resolution with the representatives of the other body.
SENATE DEBATE–OCTOBER 19, 1977
WATERWAY USER CHARGES-H.R. 8309
AMENDMENT NO. 1460 Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, I send to the desk an amendment to H.R. 8309. This amendment would incorporate into H.R. 8309 language that is virtually identical to provisions adopted by the Senate on June 22 of this year as a part of H.R. 5885. These provisions involve the construction of a new locks and dam 26 on the Mississippi River at Alton, Ill., the implementation of an effective system of waterway user charges, and a variety of unrelated water resources projects.
I recognize that the issues of user charges and locks and dam 26 may by now be tiring ones for many of my colleagues. We thought we had resolved these points last June 22. But our action was shunned by the House, which ignored our request for a conference on the Senate-passed proposal for a comprehensive waterway user charge.
Nothing has changed since June 22. The Army Corps of Engineers is still spending hundreds of millions of dollars yearly as a 100 percent subsidy for the big barge companies. The barge companies continue to moan and groan when it is suggested they pay anything approaching a reasonable or fair share of these costs. And the users of other types of Federal water projects—irrigators, hydropower users, industrial water users still send in their checks to the Federal Government to pay back their share of the costs of these taxpayerprovided benefits. Only the big barge companies continue on the free ride.
My amendment offers the Senate the opportunity to stand again behind the principle that such luxuries should be partially repaid, while assuring a more balanced national transportation policy.
Specifically, my amendment amends both title I and title III of H.R. 8309, leaving title II untouched, except for a minor, conforming amendment. The language added to titles I and III is essentially identical to what the Senate adopted on June 22, 1977.
First, the amendment authorizes the immediate reconstruction of locks and dam 26, at an estimated cost of $421 million. But the authorization is the language of the Senate-passed bill, with the requirements for a comprehensive Upper Mississippi River master plan.
Second, the amendment authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to develop, subject to congressional veto, a system of waterway user charges to be phased in, beginning in fiscal year 1980. This is similar to what the Senate passed on June 22, except for one change I shall explain in a moment. The amendment still has a provision saying that no user charge can exceed 1 percent of the value of the commodity shipped, even after the full phase-in. The user charges are phased in to assure that the barge industry has time to absorb and adjust to these charges. And there are regular studies providing assessments of the impacts.
Let me explain the one difference between this amendment and the amendment we adopted in June. At that time, the Senate approved a 10-year phase-in, beginning in fiscal year 1980. This amendment extends the phase-in by 1 additional year, to an 11-year period, beginning in fiscal year 1980. The extra year is provided by freezing the progression in the user-charge rate during year 2 at the level recovered in year 1. After year 2, the scale of charges moves up in a manner identical to what the Senate approved last June, obtaining full recovery of operation and maintenance costs, and 50 percent recovery of new construction costs in the 11th and final year of phase-in, fiscal
As I mentioned, this amendment specifically incorporates the House's fuel-tax proposal, In our June action, the Senate adopted a dollar-for-dollar offset against the level of user charges should fuel tax be enacted. Now that the fuel tax is a part of this House bill, the fuel tax of 4 cents a gallon-or later 6 cents a gallon-will be credited, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, against the sums owed toward user charge. This assures against double charging. The fuel tax costs come off the top, with DOT establishing the remainder to be due, based on the percentage levels specified in the amendment.
Some of those who opposed this amendment last June argued that the Secretary of DOT should have the flexibility to utilize a fuel tas. Under the amendment I am presenting today, the fuel tax is included. But this amendment also allows for a more flexible charge system, using lockage fees and license fees, the type of fees the DOT studies have shown would have the least adverse impact on the waterway carriers.
The key to this amendment, and the ingredient missing in the House-passed bill, is that recovery must be based on a percentage of expenditures. It must not be independent, as it is in the House bill. Under House bill, waterway expenditures might balloon to a couple of billion dollars a year, or drop to zero. No matter what they do, under the House bill, the barge companies would continue to chip in a paltry 4 pennies a gallon in taxes. That 4 cents a gallon equals about 6 percent or so of present corps expenditures on the inland waterways.
If user charges are to be meaningful—as they are on other modes of the transportation, on hydropower, and on water supply—they must be tied to expenditures. Highway taxes are tied directly to expenditures, because gas taxes paid to the trust fund are the only basic source of Federal expenditures. Creation of a waterway fuel tax bearing no relation to expenditures would be a delusion. But if the level of recovery is tied to the level of expenditures, then the waterways industry itself will help to act as a public watchdog against waste, a watchdog against gold plating of projects.
Mr. President, a basic issue of this amendment involves transportation equity. Another basic issue is the need to reduce the tar burden on the American family and halt the free ride given a few favored
companies. These issues were resolved last June 22, when the Senate adopted my amendment by a 71 to 20 vote.
What really is at issue now is whether the Senate, as a body, should insist again upon that position, or whether we will allow the House to circumvent our position, to make an end run around our June request for a conference. If we fail to repass this amendment, I believe, we may encourage the House to avoid other tough issues in this
This does not mean, of course, that compromise from my amendment would not be necessary in the eventual conference. Of course it will be. But that is the proper function of a conference. The Senate should not bypass the conference process and our traditions just to please the barge companies.
And there is one final point, Mr. President. The administration has made it celar that President Carter will not sign a bill for the reconstruction of locks and dams 26 unless it is accompanied by a reasonable and "substantial” system of user charges. My amendment provides the assurances we can get a bill the President will sign.
Mr. President, in an effort to explain the details of user charges, I have prepared a comparison between this amendment and the bill adopted by the Senate in June (H.R. 5885). I hope that my colleagues will have an opportunity to study it, as well as portions of the explanation taken from a report filed earlier this year by the Committee on Environment and Public Works. While this report fails to discuss the new 1-percent cap on user charges or the extra year of the 11-year approach, it does discuss the basic rationale for the amendment, although the section notations differ somewhat.
AMENDMENT No. 1460
On page 1, line 3, delete all through line 17 on page 11, and insert the following:
"TITLE I–INLAND NAVIGATION IMPROVEMENTS
"SEC. 101. This title may be cited as the 'Inland Navigation Improvement Act of 1977.'
"SEC. 102. (a) The Congress finds that construction of an inland navigational system that imposes no costs on the direct beneficiaries of such system is unfair to the operators and users of competing modes of transportation and creates distoritions in transportation usage that are wasteful of the Nation's resources, The Congress further finds that certain improvements, including the reconstruction of locks and dam 26, Mississippi River, Alton, Illinois, are necessary for the effective operation of the Nation's inland waterway system.
"(b) The Congress declares that national economic development requires the maintenance of an adequate inland waterway system but, as a matter of equity and efficiency, that the commercial users of this inland waterways system, should contribute a portion of the Federal navigation-related costs involved in building, operating, maintaining, and rehabilitating such waterways.
"(c) It is, therefore, the purpose of this Act both to establish a system of user charges that will promote greater equity and efficiency among all modes and demonstrate the economic feasibility of projects on the inland waterways of the United States, providing a market test for their need, and to authorize the reconstruction of locks and dam 26, Mississippi River, Alton, Illinois, as a way to promote the more efficient operation of the existing waterway system.
"SEC. 103. (a) Not later than ten months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall, after consultation with the Secretary of the Army, and after conducting public hearings and permitting not less