Letter: Still Independent

A recent open letter in Metro Pulse [by Seva David Ball, April 5, 2012] criticized me for voting against an amendment requiring that 10 percent of federal highway funds be spent on transportation enhancements.

These enhancements include such things as bike paths, safe routes to schools, scenic by-ways, and other programs to which no one is opposed. I even agreed to serve as the first Republican Co-Chair of the Scenic By-Ways Caucus and helped obtain funding for the Cherohala Skyway in Monroe County.

I presently serve as Chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee. As such, I have been very involved in helping write H.R. 7.

The Committee Staff recommended, and I and Chairman Mica agreed, that the states should be given more flexibility in many ways in this bill, including on the 10 percent set aside for transportation enhancements.

The way this bill is written, states can spend 15 or 20 percent or any amount they wish on these enhancements. States which have spent much more on these programs in recent years may need to spend more now on crumbling bridges or very unsafe highways.

Needs vary greatly from state to state and one-size-fits-all solutions dictated or mandated by the federal government often do not work.

In addition, competition usually makes things better. I did not think it was asking very much to require that these enhancement programs compete within highway departments in their own states for these funds. Besides, a program that is very good in one state may not be so good in another.

The letter also expressed disappointment for Tennessee Republicans voting in lockstep with each other.

Last week I was one of 10 Republicans who voted against the so-called Ryan Budget, primarily because it did not balance for 28 years and it continued funding for Iraq and Afghanistan at $8 billion a month.

Week before last, I was one of 10 Republicans who voted against a bill repealing a part of what is generally referred to as "Obamacare." I favored repeal of the applicable section, but the bill went much too far in limiting medical malpractice judgments.

I was one of 45 Republicans who, a few years ago, voted against the No Child Left Behind Law, which I felt was a great overreaction to failed school systems in several of our largest cities.

I could give many other examples such as these. I am a conservative Republican, and I vote with the Republican majority most of the time. However, I can assure you that I do not vote in lockstep with anyone. At times my own Republican House leadership feels I am a little too independent.

John J. Duncan Jr.

Member of Congress