“Deficit spending is not the answer,” Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said this week in Harrisburg, PA. It probably never was, but it has been used in the recent past when it wasn’t supposed to be an option either. Those past occasions have arisen when we needed money from the general fund because there wasn’t any other way to keep the Highway Trust Funding (HTF) filled with enough of our tax dollars. Shuster’s rejection of deficit funding is predictable enough, but it begs the question what might happen if the HTF is once again in desperate need. And that is certainly not an off-the-planet possibility in the next couple of years. If he means every word of what he said it means less money than even MAP-21 calls for will find it ways to work. Ah, but any politician can change his mind by simply pointing out what he really meant to say.
Perhaps Shuster sees taking this option off the table tantamount to putting out to see on the USS TransportationInfrastructure without lifeboats. No deficit spending so find other ways to fund transportation infrastructure. The only problem with that scenario of course is that the fall 2014 reauthorization deadline is barreling down on us and there aren’t any alternatives that weren’t available when MAP-21 was Dr. Frankenstein-ed together.
Interesting too that the T&I committee is looking into the federal role in transportation infrastructure funding and management this week. There has been talk in recent years (most of it idle chatter but of course idle chatter is not always idle chatter) about a different , weakened, federal role with states taking over more of the job of getting money out into working job sites and on to designer tables. All we need for that to happen is for this US Congress to give up some of their power. Don’t you just love the insurance company commercial where the little pig takes an airline flight?