Rep. LaTourette Tells Transit Advocates to Ask Congress for What They Need

Transit officials spent the day on Capitol Hill yesterday, meeting with Congressional offices as part of the American Public Transportation Association’s legislative conference.

Transportation Committee Chair John Mica suggested they ask members for a six-year bill. Secretary Ray LaHood urged them to ask for support for President Obama’s “big, bold vision” for transportation.

LaTourette, right, meets with Ohio bike advocates during last week's Bike Summit. Photo courtesy of the ##http://www.bikeleague.org/blog/2011/03/hill-visit-latourette-supports-complete-streets-receives-league-award-from-ohio-delegation/##League of American Bicyclists##

Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) was a little more blunt. “You’d be nuts to ask for SAFETEA-LU levels,” he said. “That’s nuts.”

He told the transit professionals in the APTA crowd that they shouldn’t be shy about asking for significant funding increases. Whereas the Bike Summit last week stuck to a modest request (begging lawmakers not to slash the little funding cycling gets), LaTourette said the transit advocates would be “nuts” to take that route.

“How are we going to build America and put people back to work without robust funding in the transportation sector?” he asked. “If you don’t [ask for more funding], shame on you when your systems deteriorate.”

He said SAFETEA-LU wasn’t a good bill to begin with. From his position on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for 14 years, he worked on TEA-21, which he said was “a good piece of legislation.” But he said by the time SAFETEA-LU was completed — two years late — declining transportation revenues had lowered the bar, leaving lawmakers with a $286 billion bill to cover more than $400 billion worth of needs.

Plus, he said, the bill’s inclusion of hundreds of earmarks, including the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, made it the “poster child for what’s wrong with Washington.” After that, LaTourette said, transportation funding was marked in people’s minds as wasteful and inefficient, a reputation that “sticks with us today.”

But while everyone in Washington is gung-ho about a six-year bill, LaTourette is pessimistic about the odds. “I would love to tell you there’s going to be a six-year bill, but I don’t know how,” he said. “No one wants to address the funding shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund.”

Whether we raise the gas tax at the pump or by the barrel, or start a vehicle-miles-traveled fee program, or toll more, we’re going to need more revenue, LaTourette said, but no one’s willing to do it. “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.”

“You’ve got to get in people’s faces,” he told APTA participants. “You’ve got to go in and ask for something” — even of the “knuckledraggers that came in in the last election that hate taxes.” He said it’s only fair that people pay for the transportation infrastructure they use.

LaTourette said his former colleague on the Republican side of the House of Representatives, Ray LaHood, has “consumed the kool-aid” since joining the Obama administration. LaTourette criticized LaHood for suggesting an 18-month listening tour instead of coming up with a meaningful proposal. “We’ve known since SAFETEA-LU we needed to raise the gas tax,” he said. “What do you think they heard on their listening tour? ‘You need money.'”

LaTourette also reiterated his support for a Complete Streets bill, which he told cyclists last week that he would co-sponsor again this session. “We were surrounded by all these people wearing spandex clothing and muscles a lot bigger than they look normally,” he joked, and referred to his previous faux pas, saying the Highway Trust Fund shouldn’t be “invaded” for complete streets. “I’ve now been through the conversion,” he said. “I’m convinced that Complete Streets is a good piece of legislation… it not only has my co-sponsorship; it has my full support.”

  • Mark

    Typical politician…

  • JamesR

    It’s heartening to see that LaTourette is apparently willing to actually govern rather than playing the role of partisan hack. But I do have a problem with this:

    “If you don’t [ask for more funding], shame on you when your systems deteriorate.”

    “I would love to tell you there’s going to be a six-year bill, but I don’t know how,” he said. “No one wants to address the funding shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund.”

    If he believes in this, then it is also HIS job to serve as an advocate for this position. He comes across as half hearted and passive here.

  • Knuckle-draggers ? Really ?

  • Goodbye latourette

    What a jerk. Totally out of touch. 1.6 trillion deficit and we’re not spending enough

  • Time for a primary challenge for Mr. LaTourette

  • Hmm. With at least 20% of the federal budget completely discretionary, I would say that the “knuckledraggers” are in the right. We pay 8% of our budget just to service the debt — which means paying interest, not paying it off. Chopping the budget by 20% would allow us to not only service the debt but actually begin paying it off. If we did this for just 10 years, our debt would be zero, and we could begin reallocating that 8% we used to pay to something better. Any politician who militates in favor of a half-trillion dollar spending spree is not paying particularly close attention to our maxed out credit line and deserves a good dose of reality come next election time.

  • bettycooper

    Plus, he said, the bill’s inclusion of hundreds of earmarks, including the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, made it the “poster child for what’s wrong with Washington.” After that, LaTourette said, transportation funding was marked in people’s minds as wasteful and inefficient, a reputation that “sticks with us today.”

    He’s right. On so many levels.

    And that will not change until the federal government quits trying to be all things to all people and gets back to constitutionally sound fundamentals.

    But back to highways/transportation infrastructure. Federally funded roads snuck in under defense over 50 years ago and the program has expanded exponentially to encompass practically every thing that moves. This sounds like every other program initiated on Capital Hill.

    What’s wrong with Washington, indeed.

  • Aggie95

    well lets take the money that we give to NPR ( 456 million I believe ) and build a road or lets stop giving money for this type of idiocy

  • Heidi

    Really? A bike summit? “(begging lawmakers not to slash the little funding cycling gets)” Why should they get any funding?? Good God, it’s come down to the government “funding” cyclists? It’s no wonder we’re broke. If they want something then figure out a way to earn the money…this government is madness!

  • SteveThomas

    What an @$$hole. With RINO’s like him in office, it’s no wonder the Dems have finally succeeded in bankrupting our nation.

  • csm

    Huge difference between infrastructure upkeep and improvement, and “high speed” trains and cycling paths. K.I.S.S. and you will stay to legislate another term.

  • Rick

    Really? This is the basic problem on full display. Why on earth is it a federal issue as to money for bicycles in any way shape or form? Does anyone use their bicycle for interstate commerce or even normal travel?

    Geez, why doesn’t someone ever ask the question “Is it our role to be legislating this” rather than ‘Can we afford it and if we can’t let’s raise taxes!”

    I’m ashamed and disgusted with all of them.

  • Salve2none

    @JamesR:
    Really ask for MORE funding???? Here’s question what happened to the STIMULUS money for the Transportation shovel ready jobs…..How much of my tax dollars r u willing to pi$$ away???? is there no end to your GREED for wasting other peoples’ money…..the answer is of course a resounding NO!!!! A TRILLION bucks flushed down the toilet and NO gains in the economy and you want more????? Take a clue Keynesian policies are failed policies and before U jump on the Bush era I’ll remind you that the Socialist er ah Dems had BOTH houses since 2007 and Barney and Dodd both contributed to the failed economic social engineering of the housing market……..at least man up and admit you support collectivism and pick a user name like Anita Dunn or Mao……

  • Cherie

    He’s my mom’s rep in Congress. I’ve never been crazy about him, but she thinks he’s wonderful. She and her Republican friends who all live in his district are VERY upset with all the layoffs and other cutbacks in OH (most depend on SS), so I would bet he’s being smart to hold this position!

  • Tim_CA

    “. “You’ve got to go in and ask for something” — even of the “knuckledraggers that came in in the last election that hate taxes.” He said it’s only fair that people pay for the transportation infrastructure they use.”

    “Knuckledraggers huh? Listen up you pompous, business-as-usual, political hack….THE PEOPLE put those “knuckledraggers” in place because of douche-bag career politicians like you.

    Thanks for outing yourself….we’ll be knocking on your door come election time.

    Pathetic hack.

  • whatawaste

    I’m not how sure you justify spending 100% of the taxpayers money on a sysytem that only 5% of the general public ride. And that 5% will ride only if they don’t have to pay more than 20% of what the actual ride costs via the fare box..

    Nice business model you have there.

  • Tina Ferrer

    Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), as an attorney and I’m quite sure you are as well, it’s the spirit of the people which made it possible for these freshmen and woman to be ushered in last November. You know this and now you say such things to such a voting constituency? That has the unequivocal muscle to put your political lights out? You have been in office for 16 years and by way of these statements it seems perhaps a bit too long? There’s no doubt you’re attempting to make politics a cushy career however in this new world Steve La Tourette, Esq., it seems you Sir didn’t get the message in November.

    Can we say another somewhat semi educated idiot RINO? Why yes we can, without a stretch or hesitation.

    You will back in the courtroom in no time Counselor.

  • mizzoujgrad

    I cannot believe this guy. We need to raise the gas tax? Gas prices are set to hit $5 per gallon this summer for much of the country. If LaTourette thinks this won’t have a massive impact on the economy I have a windmill farm to sell him. People are TAPPED OUT. We don’t have any more money to send to a bloated federal government that has at least a $100 billion in redundant spending as identified by Tom Coburn. If LaTourette is returned to congress in two years his constituents deserve what they get. Unfortunately the rest of the country will also have to deal with his inside the beltway mentality.

  • The political winds are a-changin’ and the days of mindless spending of OPM are coming to an end, thank God! This guy is a typical Washington hack type who speaks a good line, but keeps on spending that OPM as fast as he can get his hack hands on it. Election time will be a real revelation for him. I can see shrinking departments from here.

  • bflat879

    Where have the transportation funds gone? My guess is COngress has appropriated it for things, other than transportation, and squandered yet another trust fund. If that is the case, I hope Congress only passes a limited increase in the gas tax to fund it and makes it very difficult to take money for any other purpose, other than transportation.

  • This F’n Guy

    @David Breault

    Not sure about the law in Ohio, but how about a recall of this clownshoe instead of letting him commit any more theft.

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    American popular singer and actor whose career stretched over more than
    half a century from 1926 until his death. Crosby was the best-selling
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  • Anonymous

    All Highway funds have gone to transportation needs — or Congress’s stupid earmarks in that area only. For example Alaska’s Bridge to Nowhere. Though the Bridge was never built, Alaska took the funds for other roads; Sen Stevens saw to that.

    We have hugh needs for infrastructure repairs. If Pawlenty hadn’t skimped on bridge inspections and repairs, the bridge portion of I-35 wouldn’t have collapsed into the river. That took a lot of the highway fund.

    Raise the gas taxes and if you don’t like it, get a low milage car, use public transportation if you have any, ride a bike of walk. All gas taxes go for transportation costs.

  • Nonya

    LaTourette is no RINO, not by a long shot.  I’m a far left winger, been unhappy with his positions many many times, but truth be told… LaTourette is good man, he’s old school, and I respect him for sticking to his guns. Transportation is the great equalizer, ever tried riding the bus system??? It’s great for a sleepy weekend ride, but not a workers commute.  Whats so wrong with Ike style conservatives??? Why have the republicans gone so far right?  They did not win because Americans believed in their hard line, they won because people were angry at Washington. They had a great sell, one of the best sells I’ve ever seen.   Enough jokers, we need professionals, regardless of party position, That’s how extreme it’s become, I’d take anyone who can make a deal for the good of the people.LaTourette might be way to conservative for me, but he’s a solid man.  What you see is what you get, and the house will be far worse without him.

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