The Obama Transportation Funding Tease

Expect a major announcement from President Obama later this year about transportation funding, stated outgoing DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, without elaborating other than saying it would be "big and bold". LaHood had been asked about VMT fees.
June 12, 2013, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Ryan Holeywell, staff writer for Governing Magazine, reported on a presentation given by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at a June 6 "gathering of officials from the transportation construction industry in Washington, D.C."

LaHood's comments came in response to a question about adopting a mileage-based user fee to replace the gas tax. "The president's going to be big and bold about what his vision is," Lahood said. "I'm not going to steal his thunder."

New or additional revenue sources would be welcomed by transportation advocates, and would help back up his transportation investment rhetoric.

The President has repeatedly spoken of the need to invest in transportation infrastructure, backed by transportation and rail budgets that don't identify where the funding would come from. His FY 2014 transportation budget is $77 billion, which includes a $40 billion, 5-year rail program funded largely by a 'peace dividend' that has been mocked by some analysts.

Earlier this year in his State of Union speech, Obama touted a plan to create jobs by spending $50 billion on infrastructure in urgent need of upgrades. But when the White House released more details about the plan a few days later, it didn't mention a funding mechanism. Few were surprised.

Early in his tenure, LaHood had been open to both increasing the federal gas tax and adopting a vehicle-miles-traveled fee - until the President put the kabosh on that type of talk, despite the fact that several commissions and experts have recommended that the federal government boost the gas tax in the interim, and adopt mileage-based-user fees as a long term funding measure.

LaHood was famously rebuked by the administration in 2009 after he said he'd like to consider the idea of charging motorists based on how many miles they drive.

LaHood will be replaced by Charlotte, N.C. Mayor Anthony Fox who was "unanimously confirmed (by a Senate panel on June 10), a final step toward what’s expected to be an easy confirmation by the full Senate."

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Published on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 in Governing
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