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Ohio Republican Senator: Voinovich: Business Buy-in Can Get Transportation Bill Done

1:37 PM PDT on June 25, 2009

George Voinovich (R-OH) may be the only senator who wants to forget about an 18-month extension of existing transportation law and move ahead quickly on broad reform. But that doesn't mean he's giving up.

george_voinovich.07.19.07_lrg.jpgSen. George Voinovich (R-OH), rendered by political caricaturist Kerry Waghorn.

business interests to work on methods for funding a long-term
transportation bill can help shift the political climate, he told
Streetsblog Capitol Hill today after Senate environment committee
chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) vowed to continue searching for revenue
raisers that can pay for massive new legislation.

now, the president is frankly worried about health care, climate
change, a lot of other things [and may have said] 'see, I don't need
another thing on my plate,'" Voinovich said.

But, he
added, the White House would likely come around if the private sector
-- which has "been heretofore reluctant ... to step up" -- is willing
to shoulder some of the extra tax burden needed to pay for increased
infrastructure investment.

Voinovich made a passionate argument for taking up the House transportation bill,
which he noted would help lower carbon emissions by encouraging greater
use of transit and less auto dependence. But his ability to turn the
tide in the Senate may be hurt by his imminent retirement
from Congress, the insistence of the environment panel's senior
Republican on a "clean" 18-month extension -- and the cold hard fact,
as Voinovich put it, that "most of my colleagues haven't even looked
at" the House bill.

The business lobby's readiness to bear
extra costs in a bad economy is another factor. As Voinovich spoke to
Streetsblog, he flagged down Jack Basso, director of program finance at
the road-lobby group AASHTO.

The senator suggested pushing
for a transportation funding extension shorter than 18 months, "to put
the pressure on to get this thing done by next year." In response,
Basso would say only that "we're supportive of the Oberstar [House]
bill moving forward."

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