Congress will not pass a new transportation authorization bill until after the 2010 elections, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said Thursday morning.
Since Congress will have to extend the highway law that’s scheduled to expire Sept. 30, Rendell said he would like it to provide for a new funding mechanism that would be incorporated into a new six-year surface transportation spending plan.
Rendell’s comments to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association annual conference on public-private ventures came one day after House Republicans stalled expedited passage of a bill that would extend the highway law through the end of 2009.
“The Senate and the White House are pretty clear that they want a stopgap, they don’t want to do a full reauthorization for 18 months” the Democratic governor told reporters. “I think that’s a fait accompli. I don’t think you’ll get anything through the Senate that doesn’t comply with that.”
Rendell said that any reauthorization Congress would pass this year would be a “very mediocre bill in terms of the needs of the country. In one sense a delay is hurtful, but in another sense the delay would give us a chance to look at new ideas, and build new concepts, and try to get a bill that will really revolutionize.”
An extension should sow the seeds for new ways to pay for infrastructure, Rendell said. “I’d like to see the national infrastructure bank to get under way now. It’s one of the potential answers. I’d like to see them set the groundwork for them.”
Rendell said that Americans should mount a grassroots effort to get Congress to pass an increase in motor fuel taxes. Members of Congress are too frightened to do it themselves, he said.
“There’s fear in Washington about raising the gas tax. We’re elected the biggest bunch of wusses I’ve ever seen in politics,” Rendell said. “They’re scared of their shadow, they’re scared to invest, they’re scared to spend – they’re terrified.”
A survey by the Build for America coalition, of which Rendell is a co-founder, said 80 percent of Americans would accept a 1 percent increase in income taxes to pay for infrastructure improvements. Unlike such intangible issues as education and health care, Americans can see the benefits of improved infrastructure.
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