Feds turn blind eye to local voters, Knabe says

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe testified Tuesday before a joint congressional committee (Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure) regarding the next Federal transportation bill.Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. John Mica, respective chairs of the committees, are hosting a series of hearings across the nation to ask local officials for input into a multi-year federal transportation spending bill. Below is a portion of the remarks made at the hearing by Knabe, chair of Metro: "Today we are at an important crossroads on federal transportation policy. The solutions designed more than 60 years ago are no longer sufficient to meet our needs. No other region demonstrates that as well as the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The bottom line is that our transportation network is the engine of our economy and our ability to compete worldwide will depend on our ability to move goods and people with greater efficiency - both in terms of cost and speed. "The voters of LA County have voted to tax themselves three times in the past three decades, desperate for relief from congestion. These three sale taxes, taken together, amount to approximately $1.5 billion annually. To date, the federal government has largely turned a blind eye to the local leadership shown by our agency and local taxpayers, along with others like us across the nation. "We strongly believe that smart, targeted, and innovative financing mechanisms can achieve two major national priorities: minimize impacts on the Federal budget and maximize the generation of new private sector jobs, particularly in the small business sector. A new federal approach to financing incorporated in the next surface transportation bill, which leverages transportation projects at the state and local levels, can achieve both of these national priorities. Metro has developed an innovative bond and TIFIA proposal that will accelerate the construction of highway and transit projects not only in Los Angeles County, but across the nation. "Taken together, these proposals hold the promise of reinvigorating our nation's infrastructure, creating a large number of good paying private sector jobs, all without burdening the Federal government with a large bill. "We need to use the power of the federal government to help leverage federal and non federal sources of money. And let's be clear, I am not saying we need a new federal program for loaning money, or a new federal infrastructure bank. We here in Los Angeles County do not need a federal bureaucracy picking winners and losers. We need flexibility, self-determination and the power to access federally-subsidized financing to make these projects possible."

********** Published: February 24, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 45