For the first time since Ronald Reagan was president, Congress has passed a new transportation bill. The two-year measure allows DC lawmakers to brag about job creation — but the politico who gets to brag the most isn’t even in Washington.
Tucked away inside the nearly 600-page bill is a provision that supersizes a transportation loan program. Democrat Barbara Boxer of California, who co-sponsored the Senate bill, credits Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with the idea and more than a dozen D.C. lobbying trips to push “America Fast Forward.”
Boxer says Villaraigosa came to see her, bringing along both the Chamber of Commerce and the unions. There, he reportedly told her, “We just passed a half-cent sales tax, but it’s going to take us 30 years to build it out. And we have an idea.”
That idea was to have the federal government front the funds now so they can build them over 10 years, rather than the 30 it will take to come up with all the money.
Los Angeles won’t be the only region competing for the loans, but the county’s half-cent sales tax puts good faith cash on the table in advance of its request. This week, the L.A. County Metro board gave its approval for a 30-year extension of that sales tax on the November ballot.
That ballot measure still needs the OK of county supervisors and the Legislature before it comes before the voters.