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Thu, Nov 10, 2011

Mineta Empathizes With LaHood

Former Trans. Secretary Says Funding Issues Nothing New

If US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is tearing his hair out over the serial budget impasses in Congress, at least he can take comfort in knowing it's nothing new, and nothing personal. Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta (pictured) is also a Democrat, but held his transportation post during the administration of George W. Bush for more than five years. He told The Hill in an interview published Monday that the situation could "make a grown man cry."

Regarding FAA funding, Mineta observed, "We're working on the 20th-plus extension...That's something we really have to get resolved, and a long-term bill."

Recent talk on Capitol Hill has anticipated an FAA authorization bill of two or four years, and similar terms for highway funding legislation. But Mineta proposes aiming higher, more like six years for highways, and something similar for the FAA. He adds long-term reliability of funding is crucial to states trying to maintain and improve infrastructure.

"States can't put out an RFP for a project that costs $200 million that lasts three years when they're working on a [continuing resolution] that gives you money on an annual basis. At some point, bonding companies are going to say we're not bonding you … if the money isn't there up front."

Mineta told The Hill the $297 billion highway bill approved in 2003 wasn't really enough to meet the country's infrastructure needs, but looking at the current situation, even smaller proposals by House Republicans, which range between $230-$280 billion, would be better than another short-term extension.

FMI: www.dot.gov

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