Norton Pushes for Federal Financial Incentives for Localities like D.C. that Use Local Dollars for Transportation and Infrastructure Projects
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), ranking member of the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee, yesterday at a subcommittee hearing on building a 21st century infrastructure asked key stakeholders about increasing incentives for state and local governments, such as the District of Columbia, that move ahead on infrastructure projects without always waiting for full federal transportation and infrastructure funding. Norton said that she would like to see incentives for states and localities and funding for such projects, but is concerned that they could be punished for so-called “overmatching,” or self-help when state and local governments use non-federal transportation and infrastructure funds to move projects forward.
“We built D.C.’s NoMa–Gallaudet U Metro station using 50 percent D.C. funds, 25 percent federal funds and 25 percent private funds from area businesses,” Norton said. “I want to explore how the federal government could offer financial incentives for state and local governments to pursue more such projects while ensuring no reduction in their traditional transportation and infrastructure funding. I do not know whether Congress could use grants or some other mechanism, but I believe such incentives could ultimately save federal dollars and avoid state-level delays in construction. Some states and localities are moving ahead of the federal government because much of their non-transportation construction depends on roads, bridges, and transit. We need to find ways to encourage, not punish, such initiatives.”
Norton was concerned by testimony of one of the witnesses, Peter Rogoff, Chief Executive Officer of Sound Transit in Washington State. Washington residents voted to raise local taxes, including, but not limited to, the state’s gas tax, to pay for improvements to the state’s highway infrastructure and to fund Sound Transit, the Seattle region’s public transit system. Rogoff said that his agency was “deeply dismayed when the President’s budget was released to see the self-sacrifice by our voters called out by the Office of Management and Budget as a reason to terminate Federal assistance for transit expansions.” While holding a jurisdiction’s traditional federal funding constant, Norton said she is interested in how overmatching or self-help could be encouraged by Congress, instead of using local self-help tax increases as reason to eliminate federal funding for such projects.