Sen. George Voinovich pressed U.S. DOT undersecretary Roy Kienitz and White House aides to reposition their stance on raising the federal gas tax. The Obama administration opposes such a move, but if the new bill is as much as $450 billion, the current tax would come up $200 billion short.
The Obama administration believes a new idea, called the National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund (I-Fund) is an attractive funding alternative because it would be used to attract private investors for new transportation projects. The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), which guarantees loans for new projects, also was discussed.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was on hand to brief the panel on his city’s 30/10 transit expansion project. Voters will have to approve higher sales taxes for the project to get off the ground, but Villaraigosa, along with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), believe the approach should be used nationwide.
“This is the third time the Los Angeles electorate has voted to tax itself for a better tomorrow,” said Villaraigosa. “As a result, Los Angeles has been able to make massive investments in public transit and our highway system.”
The Obama administration is expected to reveal its upcoming principles for the next long-term transportation bill, but Kienitz warned that it could be short of additional ideas for a more potent funding mechanism.