President Obama has repeated his call for higher federal spending on infrastructure, stating that U.S funding has fallen behind levels in China, Russia and other countries and declaring, "We can no longer afford to sit still."
In the latest in a series of statements pushing public-works spending, Obama said on Oct. 11, that "our infrastructure is woefully inefficient and it is outdated."
His Rose Garden comments were accompanied by the release of a Treasury Dept.-Council of Economic Advisers report outlining the benefits of higher public-works funding. The report said that "now is the optimal time to increase the nation�s investment in transportation infrastructure."
As evidence to back up that statement, the report said the increased spending would produce jobs at a time of high unemployment, could capitalize on low construction costs and would fill in some of the gap from state and local governments� cutback in public works funding.
Obama's remarks followed a meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Governors Edward Rendell (D-Pa.) and Jack Markell (D-Del.), former Transportation Secretaries Norman Mineta and Samuel Skinner and several mayors.
The President reiterated a call he made in a Labor Day speech to rebuild 150,000 miles of highways, install or maintain 4,000 miles of railroad track and upgrade 150 miles of airport runways.
That would come partly through a not-yet-drafted six-year surface transportation bill with a $50-billion up-front infusion and a national infrastructure bank.
Construction-industry groups, such as the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and Associated General Contractors welcomed Obama's new speech and the White House report.
But industry officials also noted that Obama's new speech was short on specifics including the key issue of how the envisioned new bill would be financed.
The White House also has yet to spell out the cost of the overall package.
But in his latest comments, the President did say that the plan would be "paid for," and not increase the overall federal deficit "over time".
But Rep. John Mica of Florida, the top Republican on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, blasted the new White House report, as "a pitiful and tardy political excuse for the Administration having killed last year any chance for a long-term transportation measure."
Mica was referring to the administration's backing last year of an 18-month transportation extension bill instead of a multi-year reauthorization supported by the leaders of the House committee.