That’s the question asked by the L.A. Times in a strong weekend story by reporters Richard Simon and Dan Weikel. Republicans won the majority in the House of Representatives in last week’s elections and are vowing to cut spending — which could impact 30/10′s prospects of becoming law.
The 30/10 Initiative proposes to use federal loans and other financing to build Measure R transit projects in 10 years instead of 30. The Times reports that although Measure R would be used to repay the federal government, there are still $2 billion in costs to the U.S. Treasury associated with 30/10 — paying interest on a new kind of transportation bond, for example — and that may be a tough sell with Republicans.
“With this year’s deficit at $1.3 trillion, and next year’s projected to be a trillion dollars or more, it’s going to be extremely difficult to convince Congress to increase spending for anything,” said Jim Specht, deputy chief of staff to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), who could return as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine) said he is open to hearing Los Angeles officials make their case, but added: “We have got to reduce a lot of spending…. The people just voted, we believe, get this deficit and this debt under control.”
Still, a number of Congress watchers note that transportation spending has historically enjoyed bipartisan support and that Republicans have a long tradition of supporting infrastructure development, from the transcontinental railroad to the interstate highway system.
“In a big-picture way, L.A.’s general thrust toward financing assistance, which is more cost-effective to the federal government than conventional grant funding, is very much in step with controlling federal spending,” said David Seltzer, a principal at Mercator Advisors, a consulting firm that advises organizations on infrastructure financing issues and was recently hired by MTA.
Republicans also could be open to creative financing ideas, especially if business groups and officials from other cities get behind them.
In response to the Times’ article, Supervisor Don Knabe — who is the chairman of the Metro Board of Directors and a Republican — issued this statement:
“The fundamentals of 30/10 should still appeal to Congress. The residents of LA County have voted to tax themselves three times in support of public transit. We want to leverage our transportation tax dollars to get these infrastructure projects built faster and cheaper. And at the same time, we’ll be jump-starting the economy by creating well over 100,000 middle class jobs. This is a program that has enjoyed bipartisan support and I am confident that will continue.”
The election reports also could make it tougher for California to seek $20 billion in federal funds for the state’s high-speed rail project, although I think it’s fair to say that was a tall order under any circumstance.