- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 26, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Wednesday that he hopes his home state of Tennessee won’t emulate Washington policymakers by spending on transportation projects without finding ways to pay for them.

Corker praised Gov. Bill Haslam, a close friend and fellow Republican, for drawing attention to Tennessee’s transportation needs.

“I applaud the fact that our state is wrestling with a long-term solution,” he said. “And it’s up to our state leader as governor and the General Assembly members to decide what is the best solution.”

Haslam has been on a 15-stop statewide tour to discuss what he projects as $6 billion in unfunded road projects. But while the governor has yet to make any specific funding proposals, some GOP leaders in the General Assembly have been quick to rule out a gas tax hike in 2016.

Corker declined to weigh in on specific solutions on the state level, but criticized a series of last-minute temporary extensions of the federal highway program for failing to address underlying funding needs.



“Politicians want to be popular with folks back home, and so they want to spend money on roads an infrastructure, because they know that it’s important,” Corker said. “They just don’t want to pay for it. I can’t abide by that.”

Yet Corker has so far found little traction in Congress for his proposal to increase the federal gas tax, or for an alternative approach of returning authority over road projects and funding to the states.

“Borrowing money like we’ve been doing with these short-term gimmicky fixes is totally inappropriate,” Corker said. “It’s irresponsible and I would say cowardly.”

Corker acknowledged that political considerations make it unlikely that new funding for transportation will happen “anytime soon.”

“The fact is that majorities want to stay in the majority,” he said.

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