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Mica, Critical of National I-Bank, Calls Hearing on Obama's Proposal

Environment and Energy Daily

October 11, 2011

By Jason Plautz

House Republicans are gearing up this week to skewer an Obama administration proposal that would create a government-backed bank to offer loans for large infrastructure projects.

A Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing tomorrow will give the GOP a chance to voice concerns with the proposed national infrastructure bank. President Obama pitched in the "American Jobs Act" an I-bank with $10 billion in startup cash that would offer loans to regional transportation projects.

However, Republicans say the bank would create too much red tape and will not have the job-creating potential that Democrats hope. T&I Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) has proposed allowing the 33 states that have infrastructure banks to expand their programs with more federal funding.

"While I support innovative financing to meet our nation's infrastructure needs, the multibillion dollar, Washington bureaucracy-based infrastructure bank President Obama is advocating raises many concerns," said Mica.

"It is my hope the hearing will focus on the most positive steps we can take to move major infrastructure projects forward and get people working, while at the same time respecting hard-earned taxpayer dollars," Mica added.

The majority invited several witnesses who have been publicly skeptical in the past of the potential for infrastructure banks, including Heritage Foundation fellow Ron Utt and economist Gabriel Roth. Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley, who has advocated for more state control over transportation dollars, will also testify.

Scott Thomasson of the Progressive Policy Institute will defend the proposal. Thomasson has studied infrastructure banks for the think tank and has said they are a viable way to move transportation dollars and create jobs.

Schedule: The hearing is tomorrow at 10 a.m. in 2167 Rayburn.

Witnesses: Gary Ridley, Oklahoma Transportation Secretary; Gabriel Roth, transport economist with the Independent Institute; Ron Utt, research fellow with the Heritage Foundation; Geoffrey Yarema, partner with Nossaman LLP; and Scott Thomasson, director of domestic policy for the Progressive Policy Institute.

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