The Senate is Doing Its Job on the Matter of Infrastructure Financing

Having misread the scheduled time for a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on the “pivot” to East Asia, I amused myself this morning by watching a hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The hearing covered implementation of the “Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act” (TIFIA) under a 2012 law entitled, “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century’s (MAP-21).”

TIFIA is a 15-year old program that provides credit assistance for state and local infrastructure development projects of regional or national significance. I had no idea that MAP-21 increased funding for TIFIA tenfold. As stated in today’s hearing, the intent of this huge increase was to get pending infrastructure projects approved and underway to boost jobs and improve the nation’s lamentable state of infrastructure. From the standpoint of liberal economics, it sounds like a fantastic idea. Even Senator Inhofe, the hard-right senator from Oklahoma, seemed enthusiastic about the program.

Getting back to the hearing, I was amazed at how productive the discussion sounded. The second panel, comprised of local infrastructure experts and lawyers who advocate for local project applications under TIFIA, gave what seemed like genuinely constructive feedback for the Secretary of Transportation and the Committee even though their interests had suffered from implementation shortfalls. Most of their feedback amounted to administrative suggestions to improve transparency and speed up the approval process.

Anyway, it was heartening to see that real governance does take place in the Senate. The hearings on issues of great partisan significance are always contentious showboating affairs but many senators really are more interested in governance than suggested by those performances.

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