Rep. Nick Rahall Responds, Agrees with Me on MAP-21’s “Sleight of Hand” Pay-Fors

This morning on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-W.V.) was read a passage from a blog post I wrote last month in which I blasted the Senate’s Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). While declaring my claim that the smoke-and-mirrors funding provisions contained in MAP-21 are extremely worrisome “may or may not be true,” he referred to the same provisions as “sleight of hands” (sic). However, he insisted “it is paid for” a number of times during the interview.

Unfortunately for Rep. Rahall, he seems to have missed my entire point. The sleights of hand he refers to are “fiscal gimmickry” because the reality of them panning out as planned is far from certain. Not only, as I have noted in the past, does the Senate’s 15-month reauthorization rely on 10 years of one-shot revenue to make it work, the largest single general revenue offset is extremely suspect.

This provision rejiggers pension actuarial tables, calling it “pension funding stabilization,” and claims a $9.5-billion offset over 10 years (compare this to the $109 in total funding). The 42 pages of the over-1,600 total pages in MAP-21 that cover this are so opaque that no one clearly understands how this money will materialize. But according to federal transportation legislative expert and former Hill staffer Gary Hoitsma, “[S]ome believe that money taken now from traditional pension retirement plans in this manner will itself ultimately have to be repaid later, very likely through a future taxpayer bailout.” That is hardly confidence-inducing, Rep. Rahall. And it’s only the most sketchy of the sketchy pay-fors contained in the bill.

Watch Rahall’s response to my post in the video below: