Last week, Senate Republicans filibustered the Rebuild America Jobs Act. I fully supported this bill and continue to support President Obama's efforts to create jobs and rebuild America's infrastructure. Luckily for those who want to put America back to work, there is a bipartisan proposal that has the potential of creating up to a million jobs without adding to the long-term debt. It's called America Fast Forward, and it is a centerpiece of the Boxer-Inhofe Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill.
On November 9th, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has the opportunity to move forward on this path-breaking initiative when it takes up the Boxer-Inhofe bill.
The idea behind America Fast Forward is simple: accelerate the construction of locally-funded road and rail projects by providing flexible, low-interest loans from the federal government.
Over the last few years, voters in Los Angeles County and in cities like Salt Lake City, Denver and Atlanta have had the courage to do something Congress hasn't: they have voted to raise their taxes and invest the additional revenues in new light rail lines, safer and more efficient highways and better bus service. As a result, hundreds of thousands of new jobs will be created, businesses will be able to get their goods to markets faster, and residents will spend less time gritting their teeth in gridlock.
America Fast Forward would exponentially increase the impact of such local commitments. It expands an existing program -- the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 (TIFIA) program -- to give more cities access to low-interest financing with flexible terms for their projects. Using their local revenue streams as collateral, cities would receive TIFIA loans to accelerate their transportation projects. The Boxer-Inhofe bill would make $1 billion in such TIFIA loans available.
The results would be dramatic. With support of America Fast Forward, Los Angeles could expedite $15 billion dollars in locally funded transit projects, laying track faster and putting people to work sooner.
The Phoenix-Mesa region would be able to fully fund its ambitious light rail system in the next few years instead of in the next 20. Across the country, America Fast Forward could create up to one million jobs in the next six years.
Let's be clear, this is a new approach. It's not an earmark. It's not a giveaway. Instead, America Fast Forward is an incentive program designed to spur local jurisdictions to raise local revenue for their projects. That's the kind of federalism that both Democrats and Republicans should be able to get behind.
America Fast Forward began with 113 bipartisan mayors in Blue States and Red States. It has since won the support of a wide range of business, labor, and environmental leaders and organizations. This includes support from odd bedfellows such as Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, and Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO.
In Congress, America Fast Forward is supported not only by progressive Democrats like Sen. Boxer but also by conservative Republicans like Sen. Inhofe and Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Across the country, local jurisdictions have realized that we can't live on the investments our parents and grandparents made. These cities have made a commitment to the future. Now it's Congress' turn. It's time to pass America Fast Forward and get America back to work.