Advocates for federal funding of infrastructure are concerned how the November 2, 2010 mid-term election will affect public works spending. The mid-term election restored the Republicans to power in the House and decreased the Democratic majority. One of the Republican campaign centerpieces was “A Pledge to America” which promised spending cuts and a decrease in the size of government, the document however was silent on infrastructure spending. “A Pledge to America” did list job creation as an important priority, it follows that because public works creates jobs, infrastructure funding should not be inimical to the Republican agenda.
The next Congress will assume the job of reauthorizing the federal government’s surface transportation program, a task that the current Congress failed to accomplish. Passing a surface transportation bill with the robust funding levels widely seen as necessary to meet the Nation’s current needs in the areas of highways and mass transit will likely prove challenging without an increase in the federal gas tax for the first time since 1993. Increasing the gas tax will be opposed by many lawmakers, however proponents of efforts to improve the fiscal health of the federal government, have included a rise in the gas tax in their recommendations for reducing the federal budget deficit.
The House committee on transportation infrastructure, now led by Representative John Mica (R-Florida) will be expected to champion policies that foster public-private partnerships as part of the reauthorization of the surface transportation program. Without a gas tax increase, it will be difficult to finance transportation projects even if alternative funding means, such as private-public partnerships are resorted to.
Civil Engineering, December 2010, Policy Briefing, J. Landers