Move LA didn’t come back home with the America Fast Forward bond program in our back pocket – it’s a heavier lift than can be accomplished in one visit, though we believe winning support for the bond program is definitely do-able. But for the moment Congress is preoccupied with the budget: The Senate budget fully funds MAP-21 but the House has proposed cutting $555 million from highways and $117 million from the transit program – meaning that few, if any, New Starts projects can move forward.

And then there’s the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund, which is projected to be virtually running on empty by 2014 due in part to the increased fuel efficiency of cars, the fact that people are driving less, and the fact that the gas tax hasn’t been increased since 1993, when it was fixed at 18.4 cents per gallon. At a meeting of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week AASHTO (the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials), said this means highway investments will have to be cut from about $41 billion to $6 billion and transit investments from $11 billion to $3 billion.

We can’t think of a better way to stretch scarce federal dollars than a financing program that would leverage private sector investment and local dollars for badly needed transportation projects. This is exactly what the America Fast Forward (AFF) program about: The Measure R sales tax for transportation investments approved by LA County voters in 2008 enables us to secure low-interest loans through the TIFIA program adopted by Congress last year. TIFIA was one of two financing strategies in the AFF program. The second part is the bond program, which would enable us to use the Measure R funding stream to secure tax credit bonds and only pay back the principle -- as the federal government would offer investors tax credits in lieu of interest payments.

Move LA also discussed with members of Congress the idea of replacing the federal gas tax with a federal sales tax on gas, an idea that has also been championed by AASHTO. We were told that this is one of the options on the table that will be considered -- here is a link to a fuller discussion of why we think this is a very good, if temporary, solution. House T&I Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) has said that he believes that there is no apparent long-term solution and that we should be satisfied with a short-term solution for now.

And here is a link to all of the reasons that we believe the federal government needs to stretch federal dollars for transportation investments by becoming a smart lender and not just a big spender.

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