When President Barack Obama announced his $50 billion transportation plan in Milwaukee over the Labor Day weekend, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, unleashed a passionate response rejecting the strategy.
In a statement that was released on Sept. 7, Mica slammed the effectiveness of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which generated $48 billion for the transportation industry, claiming that the stimulus money was slow to reach those in need at the department of transportation level. Furthermore, Mica claimed the Obama administration “undermined their Democratic House T&I Committee Chairman (Rep. Jim Oberstar) and killed any chance for a six-year bill” with the passage of ARRA.
ROADS & BRIDGES Editorial Director Bill Wilson was able to catch up with the embattled politician to talk about Obama’s latest proposal, along with a communication disconnect with the administration, the 2010 elections and transportation reauthorization. The following are excerpts from the phone interview conducted on Sept. 13. For more on Mica’s thoughts, look for ROADS & BRIDGES November election coverage in the October issue.
Bill Wilson: Is there one thing that stands out in the Obama $50 billion transportation plan that you do not like?
John Mica: I’ve got 70% of the stimulus money still sitting in federal coffers. The first thing we need to do is find a way to get money out faster and expedite the process. I just finished two trips across the country and everywhere I go people are so frustrated that it takes so long because there are so many federal hoops.
If the administration is serious they should sit down with people. I have been working since the Reagan administration, and when you want to get something done you bring the players together and you see what you can achieve together. I have never seen a [administration] like this.
BW: Why is the Obama administration so distant?
JM: I do not have a clue. For three years they have had pretty high numbers in the House and could do anything they wanted to do.
BW: Do you think Republicans will gain control of the House after the November elections? Most ROADS & BRIDGES readers think that they will.
JM: Oh, God. They are probably more optimistic than me. On Nov. 3 I will know for sure. I have been out in my district, and some days I feel real positive and other days I am just not sure if we will get the numbers.
BW: If Republicans gain control of the House and/or Senate, will we see the passage of a long-term transportation bill in the near future?
JM: You know we will have a much more conservative Congress, and one of the keys moving forward is to figure out a responsible way to finance it. I think if we don’t have a bill on the floor by April or May it will be very difficult to pass because then you get into the presidential election.