For Transportation Bill, Gridlock

Posted on March 6, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

It’s difficult to decide which transportation related cliché to invoke to describe the status of the multibillion-dollar transportation bill pending before congress – derailed, on a bumpy road, off-course, train wreck, stalled, and gridlocked are a few that come to mind.

At the end of last week, Senate Democrats sounded confident they would be able to gain passage of a measure that passed committees in bipartisan fashion. Obstruction by Republicans, who are loath to hand Democrats anything resembling a victory, would be politically risky in this election year given that millions of jobs depend on passage.

But in the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is again having difficulty corralling the troops, with Tea Party conservatives demanding huge spending cuts. At this point, Boehner may be considering spurning the Tea Party members and instead forming a coalition with Democrats to get the job done.

Already, Boehner has been forced to abandon an ambitious $260 billion, five-year bill in favor of a more manageable 18-month package. But the House needs to take swift action, since the existing measure expires at the end of the month.

Helping to sink the House GOP bill was bipartisan opposition from urban lawmakers angered at the bill’s proposed end to the practice of dedicating 20 percent of highway trust fund dollars to support public transit, which has been done for the past three decades.

The bill in question is a reauthorization package that dictates how the Department of Transportation (DOT) spends money for highways, transit and other needs. The funding comes in large part from the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents a gallon.

The last five-year authorization package expired in 2009, but DOT programs have been kept alive through temporary extensions. The latest of these is the measure that expires at the end of March.

We agree with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican House member, who last week called for a political cease fire on the transportation measure. The critical infrastructure improvements and jobs it provides, he said, are too important to be threatened by election-year grandstanding.

“Take the politics out of transportation,” LaHood said in urging members of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to rally behind the Democratic Senate’s two-year, $109 billion transportation bill.

“It’s not a bad place to start. It’s comprehensive way to start. The money’s there. It’s paid for. No excuses. We’ll pass it and put our friends and neighbors to work.”

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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2 Responses to “For Transportation Bill, Gridlock”

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I have been a long time advocate of public transportation and in today’s economy, the need to improve basic services and infrastructure is critical. The collateral benefits of jobs and stimulus are just that- the main purpose is vital- restore, improve–at so many levels improve transit so the the job creators(consumers) can get to their jobs, businesses can connect to customers, the economy can grow despite the drag of fuel prices. My company the Moore Consulting Group is engaged in the debate and effort to put these bills into law; passage would be a tide to lift all boats–something to benefit every family.

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