Highways, Bridges and Roads

Rep. Hoyer pushes back on GOP highway bill claims

{mosads}”We have to know what is in the transportation bill,” he continued. “Mr. Mica’s original proposal was to reduce substantially the investment in infrastructure and roads and bridges and transportation generally.”

President Obama’s $447 billion proposed jobs bill includes $50 billion for transportation projects and $10 billion to start an national infrastructure bank.

Democrats have argued that Mica’s proposal for a new long-term highway bill, which he says would limit spending on transportation to about the $35 billion per year that the Highway Trust Fund brings in, would cut annual transportation spending by about 30 percent.

Rep. Hoyer said Tuesday that type of cut “certainly would not be viewed positively by … the Democrats,” though he said he agrees with the proposition that a “robust” transportation bill could be a jobs bill.

Both the House and Senate proposals are far below the $556 billion, six-year bill that had been suggested by President Obama. But transportation advocates have generally said they like the longer length of the House proposal, but the higher annual spending amount of the Senate’s.

Rep. Mica has indicated he may be willing to compromise on the amount if Democrats identify alternative ways to pay for it other than the taxes on gas that go into the Highway Trust Fund. Some Democrats have suggested raising the gas tax, which is currently about 18 cents, but President Obama has been cool to the idea, citing the current economic difficulties.

Asked Tuesday about the possibility of allowing more oil drilling to pay for transportation projects, Hoyer demurred.

“Well, we will see what they have to propose,” he said. “I don’t want to speculate on what they are proposing again. They haven’t proposed that yet, as you know. There has been some talk about it, but we will see what they propose.

“I am for, as I think I have said before, utilizing our energy resources consistent with protecting our environment, but I think that America wants to be energy independent, and towards that end we have to maximize, consistent with environmental protections and considerations, our use of our energy here at home,” Hoyer said.

-This post was corrected from an earlier version at 5:18 p.m.


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