Last week, James Oberstar (D- Min), who is chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, released his draft outline for a new transportation bill that would significantly alter and improve federal transportation policy is in this nation. But the Obama administration is fighting any Congressional approval of such a bill until AFTER the 2010 midterm elections.
First, some highlights of the new draft transportation bill. Here is a great overview and analysis of this important piece of legislation.
The most exciting aspect of the bill to me is the $50 billion for high speed rail. This represents a significant federal investment in quality rail transit. Of course, China and Spain are spender far more on high speed rail despite having much smaller economies.
Also, the draft bill would create a National Infrastructure Bank, a crucial component to securing needed extra funding for infrastructure projects.
The total pricetag of the bill is $450 billion, a 57% increase over the 2005 version.
Of course, the Obama administration has been pushing Congress to delay passage of a new transportation bill until after the 2010 midterm elections. This is just the latest in a series of disappointments and political cowardice for me by the Obama administration. The administration wants to extend the current federal transportation bill by 18 months, something neither Oberstar or ranking House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member John Mica (R-FL) support.
And the Senate has been more than receptive to the idea of stalling the passage of a new transportation bill and go along with the administration's spinelessness.
Why, you may ask? Because no one can agree on how to pay for this bill. This is a lame copout on so many levels. First, the far more expensive and useless war in Iraq has no funding source other than general revenues. And second, there is a pretty obvious solution: RAISE THE GAS TAX!!! The federal gas tax stands at a little over 18 cents per gallon and hasn't been raised since 1993!! No wonder the federal highway trust fund is broke!! Also, cutting the bloated military budget, cracking down on corporate tax shelters, and raising income taxes on the richest Americans would easily fund this much needed transportation bill.
Unfortunately, we are finding out more every day just how chickenshit Democrats in the legislative and executive branches really are.