TAMPA — Elected officials, especially those in Congress, must get over their political fear of spending for transportation infrastructure, former Pennsylvania Gov. and Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell told 250 attendees Monday at the “Building Florida’s Future” conference at the Port of Tampa.
“Regardless of how good a job you do locally, you can’t do without significant federal participation,” said Rendell, who founded the nonpartisan Building America’s Future group with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Rendell emphasized that spending on transportation infrastructure such as bridges, highways, rail and seaports is necessary to enhance safety, improve the economy, create jobs and reduce congestion to enhance the quality of life.
Rendell received solid if not overly enthusiastic applause from business leaders in a region where mobility expenditures are volatile political fodder, although the most conservative interests have backed seaport spending in recent years.
“Ports are crucial,” Rendell said, adding that 95 percent of overseas trade is by ship. “I want to enlist you to give our leadership permission slips (for infrastructure improvements.)”
“There’s a difference between investment and spending,” he said. “But politicians don’t like to take risks,” he said, taking a swipe at elected officials whose identity rests with saying “no” to increasing revenue through taxes.
“There is good government spending, there is bad government spending, it is crucial you know the difference,” he said.”