Better Roads Staff
Orski writes: “‘Does the public perceive a crisis? What do your constituents tell you?’ asked one participant. Members of the Senate panel did not answer the question directly, but their comments left no doubts as to how they assess the political environment. The public, they suggested, is skeptical that any additional money would result in tangible improvements in mobility. The level of trust in the federal government’s ability to solve the nation’s problems is low. Local transportation tax initiatives get to be approved because local officials can point to specific improvements that new taxes will buy. People know what they are voting for and see tangible results for their tax dollars. They do not have the same sense of trust and confidence in the promises of the federal government.” The panel, writes Orski, also suggested the industry is at fault for not presenting a better case for infrastructure investment at a federal level.
So, the irony is that you elected folks in Washington have done such a bad job that people don’t trust you to get it right anymore and the fault is ours for not finding a way to bail you out.
Transportation lobby groups are running into an allied problem as they push for a new six-year bill.
Senior members of the various industry organizations that make up the Transportation Construction Coalition made visits to Capitol Hill one hectic day in May attempting to talk to as many members of Congress as possible and to urge them to support a new bill. Not long after those visits, lobby organizations began to hear that the members felt they were unpersuasive. The lobbyists’ take on this response was that both Representatives and Senators – not all but most – felt that they could afford to ignore the heat the visits were supposed to generate. That they could continue to stall on pushing bill that will need new funds – even if they are user fees that don’t raise the deficit – because the public is not concerned enough to make reauthorization a priority, a.k.a. an election issue. Remember this is a public that desperately wants good, safe roads and bridges but it largely unaware that fuel taxes go to those roads and bridges and cannot be spent on any member’s favorite non-transportation projects. Nor can the administration hijack them.
A number of industry organizations have heard that the key crisis in the America right now is the jobs crisis and so they are beginning to swing some of the assault into the argument that virtually no other sector of the economy can create and maintain jobs as infrastructure can.
So the equation for those of us urgently trying to pressure Congress into the new bill is to let them know this: the public doesn’t trust you now, but if you let infrastructure crumble they will trust you less, and then they won’t re-elect you. v
Let’s Treat Infrastructure Maintenance Like Debt Service
By Eugene W. Harper, Jr.
We decry the decrepit state of our “crumbling” infrastructure, but we have yet to adopt legal rules needed to provide for its ongoing maintenance and repair.
A glance at the law governing enforcement of municipal bond obligations suggests a possible strategy for solving the maintenance problem, one that could be developed by state and local officials, bond lawyers, and other financial professionals.