Unless you pay no attention at all to NFL football, you have heard all about the New England Patriots and the accusations that they deflated footballs used in the AFC Championship game.
That episode is fitting as it applies to the way Congress has responded to transportation spending. They have treated it like a political football, kicking it around a lot, but never moving the ball down the field, leaving nothing but a deflated football, and lots of rumors as to how it got that way.
Let’s check history. In 2010, the Obama Administration proposed a $50 billion “roads, rails and runways” proposal and then again when it was expanded and incorporated into the American Jobs Act in 2011.
Last year, the Obama Administration unveiled a four-year, $300-billion transportation bill. It included a 22 percent increase in highway funding, a 70 percent increase in transit funding, and a provision allowing states to put tolls on interstates.
These proposals fell on deaf ears. Congressional naysayers opposed the idea of an infrastructure bank and a national high-speed rail network. They’ve also blocked proposals for corporate tax reform that have been tied to freeing up money for roads and bridges.
Now during a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday, Jan. 25, House Speaker John Boehner said that it is critically important to fund a long-term highway bill.
“The biggest problem we have is that the Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by gasoline taxes, continues to shrink as cars get more and better mileage standards. So, the money that’s in the Highway Trust Fund isn’t sufficient to meet the infrastructure needs of the country. When the Democrats controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, they couldn’t increase the gas tax,” he said. “We believe that through tax reform [and] a couple of other options that are being looked at, we can find the funds to fund a long-term highway bill. It’s critically important to the country.”
Who is Mr. Boehner kidding? Are we to believe that he will now take infrastructure funding seriously, when he has fumbled the ball and thrown interceptions for the past six years?
Congress has to get in the game. And we are entitled to know what the game plan is. Right now, they are playing with a deflated football, and we all know who pulled the plug.