Boxer: Forget Transportation Bill, Work with Me on Something Else

6_25_09_boxer.jpg"Defender of the Environment" Boxer doesn’t want reforms or debate over gas tax increases to hold up transportation bill; but does favor an eighteen month delay. Photo: SteveRhodes/Flickr

Green transportation advocates are pressing Congress
to refuse any new spending that’s not tied to reform of the existing
system — a call that influential senators in both parties ruled out
today.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman
Barbara Boxer (D-CA) joined Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK), the panel’s ranking
GOPer, in endorsing another 18 months of the 2005 transportation bill.

The
extension, Boxer said, should be "clean as it can be, clean as a
whistle … not with these policy changes, because it will in fact
jeopardize a quick passage of this extension."

Boxer’s
agreement to an extension free of policy reforms appears to be an
acknowledgment that Inhofe and most other GOP senators would slow down
approval of the short-term transportation measure. But she faced a lone
critic today in Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), who challenged Boxer to
back down from her opposition to raising the federal gas tax during an
economic recession.

"I will tell you that if you go out to the people of America
and say [a gas tax hike] is the solution, they’re not going to buy it,"
Boxer said.

Voinovich
reminded the Californian that she "is always talking about the
environment; [drafting a new transportation bill] is going to have a
huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions." He suggested that senators
"look at" the House transportation bill
offered by Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN) and pitch the American public on an
increase in the gas tax, which has remained static since 1993.

In fact, recent polling supports
Voinovich’s argument, not Boxer’s. A survey released earlier this year
by the advocacy group Building America’s Future found that 81 percent
of Americans would pay more in federal taxes to support infrastructure
investments.

But the alignment of Boxer and Inhofe, as well
as Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) — whose Finance Committee must agree on a
revenue source for the next transportation bill — in favor of a clean
18-month extension is enough to doom the House effort to pass a bill
this year.

Boxer described the process as a "two-track
effort," promising to work on a "transformational" long-term
transportation bill during the 18-month extension period of the
existing law.

Given Congress’ full plate and Boxer’s focus
on climate change legislation, however, the chances of passing a
broader six-year transportation bill before 2011 look slim right now.

Late Update:
Boxer closed the hearing by asserting that the lack of a revenue source
for a new transportation bill, not the crowded congressional calendar,
is driving her support for a "clean" 18-month extension.

"For
those who want to focus on transformation, I urge them to work with me
on my global warming bill," which will have a transportation portion,
she said.

  • I can’t see why the machinations of DC matter one iota to me here in LA. That place is like the Death Star and the tavern on Tatooine mixed together.

    The types of changes I’m working towards (with my friends and compatriots) can easily be funded with existing transportation revenue streams. In fact, I think the livable streets movement should be stepping up and demanding that transportation be drastically DE-funded – to eliminate the deep auto subsidies we all collectively pay for. Lowering the capital costs of transportation will take D.C. out of the game (they already are at the local level anyway).

  • gonna disagree with you here – to me, it does matter alot – though LA and most So Cal are self help counties (finance most of transportation with local dollars) – federal policy helps and is integral to what happens – and in many cases some of the progressive thinkers at the fed level are advocating for change in performances measures ie measuring mobility and accessibility by people moved not cars. The dept of livability in the Fed DOT is an example of just that. Still many challenges/obstacles ahead but still maybe bright lights …. my mom always says, don’t curse the darkness – light a candle

  • and setting the stage for finance mechanisms for infrastructures is huge – and needs a total overhaul – this stuff happens at the fed level (as well as state and local) but it all adds up to change (potentially)

  • and rethinking and retooling finance mechanisms for transportation project and other infrastructures is soo needed now – these conversations happen at fed, state and local level and are all so needed to be rethought …. hopefully there is courage and support to tackle these issues and create new strategies to address some of these major challenges …

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Bipartisan Support Builds for Six-Month Extension of Current Transpo Law

|
The senior Republicans on three of the Senate’s four infrastructure-centric committees signed a bipartisan letter on Tuesday asking the leaders of Congress’ upper chamber to call up a six-month extension of the 2005 transportation law. Senate environment chairman Barbara Boxer. Photo: Politics Now In the letter, Sens. Jim Inhofe (OK), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), and […]

Will Barbara Boxer Stand Up for Sustainable Transportation?

|
Behind the scenes, we’re hearing a lot of sustainable transportation advocates sounding alarms over California Senator Barbara Boxer these days. As chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee, Boxer is going to play a critical role in this year’s federal transportation funding effort. Environmentalists want to see transportation policies and funding formulas that […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Boxer and Inhofe Say Transportation Bill Almost Ready, Funding Still TBD

|
Two leading Washington lawmakers assured reporters Wednesday that a long-term transportation bill is coming, but provided little in the way of details. Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, respectively, held a press conference Wednesday featuring a line-up of construction and labor […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Transpo Bill Update: Congress Tees Up Two More Months of the Same

|
Can anything spur Congress to overhaul a federal transportation policy that lets states run amok building highway expansions while the rest of our infrastructure goes to seed? Don’t hold your breath — the cycle of extending the status quo transportation bill is starting all over again. Last Monday, the Obama Administration began warning state departments of transportation that […]

Lawmakers Cross Party Lines on Transpo Funding as Debate Rages

|
An 18-month extension of existing transportation law cleared the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today, but not before spirited debate on a proposal billed as a compromise with House members who remain strongly opposed to the Senate’s stopgap. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of theSenate environment committee (Photo: Politics Now) The "clean" re-upping of the […]