House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica defended his six-year transportation plan from accusations that the bill wouldn’t maintain current funding levels as he claimed.
“My floor is the current level … and I’m hoping we can find even more money and increase on a cost-of-living or some other incremental basis the funding for a six-year authorization,” said the Florida Republican.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is proposing a competing two-year plan, challenged the feasibility of Mica’s plan last week, saying his $286 billion bill represents a 16 percent cut to the current spending level.
Mica said his $286 billion plan would allow for long-term planning and funding of transportation projects, unlike Boxer’s $109 billion plan. Backers of both plans are searching for revenue to augment what is expected to come through the Highway Trust Fund.
“We need a long-term bill,” Mica told Progressive Railroading’s RailTrends conference in New York. “We need a six-year bill … I’m committed to finding the money.”
The current surface transportation spending program is operating under the latest in a series of short-term extensions. Mica said that makes it impossible to plan long-term projects such as a long-delayed New York subway line he toured Tuesday with Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y
Mica also said ways must be found to speed the approval of major projects.
“Shovel-ready has become a national joke,” he said. “It takes six to eight years just to get the approval, to go through the red tape, the paperwork … That nonsense has to stop. The president freed up 14 projects a couple of weeks ago. Fourteen projects? We’ve got 14,000 projects tied up in red tape and paperwork.”