Statement on Returning Without Approval the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987

March 27, 1987

If the American people need any further proof as to who is responsible for the deficit, all they have to do is look at the $87.5 billion budget-busting highway and transit bill passed by Congress last week. This bill is a textbook example of special interest, pork-barrel politics at work, and I have no choice but to veto it. But in doing so, let me stress that I am not only willing but anxious to sign a responsible bill to continue highway and transit programs.

In fact, the Secretary of Transportation, at my direction, has drafted legislation that addresses our most serious objections. The Congress need only pass this cleaned-up version, send it down here next week, and I will sign the bill within hours.

I also want to reaffirm my strong support for allowing the States the authority to return to the 65-mile-an-hour speed limit -- it's long past due. But I'm not going to sacrifice this country's economic well-being. And that is the issue -- jobs and economic growth. I think there is a solid chance here for bipartisan cooperation as long as we remember such cooperation is a two-way street. The administration and the Congress have made solemn pledges to the American people about taxes, spending, and deficit limits that must be honored.

There is a world of difference between legitimate funding for badly needed highway construction, which we wholeheartedly support, and the expensive, special interest projects that lard this bill. I'm not the only one who doesn't like these blatant special interest politics. The editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and numerous other papers, all have pointed out serious problems with this bill. Let me give you just a few of many reasons why: the so-called demonstration projects, for example. One would construct three parking facilities to, quote, ``demonstrate the effectiveness of construction of parking facilities to reduce on-street parking congestion . . .'' The only thing these projects demonstrate is the ability of Congressmen to bring home the ham hocks.

At the same time, the funding for most of these projects is not subject to normal spending controls; moreover, completion of these projects will likely cost several billion dollars beyond funds identified in the bill. And a few favored cities, with politically powerful Congressmen, get hugely disproportionate amounts -- billions -- while other communities are cheated of their fair share. I just have to think that's a disgrace to the American way of governing. Over the last several years I have had many pledges of support from Congressmen and Senators who have promised to help cut our deficit and back up my veto of overweight spending bills. Today I'm taking them all up on it. I'm asking them to hold the line, right here and right now, against deficit spending.

Now, there is important, legitimate highway construction that does need to be carried out. As I mentioned, all we have to do is clean up this bill, pare away the waste, knock out the politically motivated spending, and I'll sign this highway bill in hours. But we have made a pledge to the American people: it's called Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, and we're not backing off that pledge. Neither are we going to raise taxes or tax rates, and that's a promise. Congress can't have it both ways. They can't continue to decry budget deficits while voting for budget-busting bills.

If Congress is institutionally incapable of controlling its spending urges, it's time for reform. Let's give the President what Governors have, the line-item veto. And while we're at it, let's pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, so America can have some peace of mind.

Note: H.R. 2, passed over the President's veto on April 2, was assigned Public Law No. 100 - 17.