House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) said this morning that getting permission from Republican leadership to find more revenues to fund the transportation bill was a “major breakthrough” but still won’t say where the money will come from.
Mica told an audience at a Washington Post-sponsored forum on transportation that passing yet another extension of the surface transportation reauthorization persuaded leadership that there would not be consensus on a long-term bill until the spending levels were raised. “There wont be a gas tax increase,” Mica said, “but our leadership has asked us to look for other sources of revenue, and we’re on that mission now.”
“Speaker Boehner has really opened the door to us to look for any responsible means” to fund the bill, Mica said, adding that a gas tax increase is still off the table. “There’s also the possibility of doing away with it; adopting something else.” He wouldn’t specify what the replacement fee could be.
Nor would he say what he thinks of a Republican proposal to fund the bill with revenues from new oil drilling except to say, “We’re looking at it. We have some scoring issues. And then we have to make sure we have the votes.”
Mica said he was confident that a long-term bill would pass in March. “Don’t let anybody talk about a two-year transportation bill; that’s criminal,” he said. His counterpart in the Senate, Barbara Boxer, has proposed a two-year bill, but could be willing to go along with a longer-term bill if funding levels were raised.
Mica also reiterated his support for state infrastructure banks, saying he prefers them to a national bank. He said the way Washington works is: “the biggest gorillas get the most bananas.” Instead of having big guys compete for big loans from a big national bank, he said, “the best way to prioritize projects is to have them evolve from local level, get local and state participation, and then assist them.”
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood also addressed the Washington Post gathering. He said he was confident that, despite current gridlock, there was enough pressure on Congress to create jobs that they’ll pass some form of transportation bill this year.