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December 15, 2016 12:30 PM, EST
Former Secretary Ray LaHood: ‘Stars Are Aligned’ for Congress, Trump to Adopt Massive Highway Funding Plan
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s first transportation secretary said he sees potential for the country’s transportation funding concerns to be addressed when President-elect Donald Trump’s administration and the Republican-led Congress kick off talks to reform tax policy over the next few months.

“Now it’s the time to do it. If we’re going to have tax reform, this is where you get these kinds of things done,” former Secretary Ray LaHood said during a panel Politico hosted here on Dec. 15. 

“The stars are aligned correctly, and if Congress doesn’t screw it up and if Trump continues to talk the way that he does — big, bold plan, and big pot of money — these mayors and governors are in for a bonanza,” LaHood added.

Policymakers and the White House should consider nearly every funding option to address looming transportation shortfalls, he said. These include increasing the number of toll facilities nationwide, adopting more vehicle miles traveled programs, establishing a national infrastructure bank to facilitate access for public-private partnerships, and raising the national tax on fuels.

“What I say is, let’s do what works. We know the Highway Trust Fund built America. It built these magnificent structures. It built the interstate system. The gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993 nationally. Let’s raise it; have a debate about it. Raise it,” LaHood said.

As secretary, LaHood and the Obama administration did not push for raising federal fuel taxes. Revenue from those taxes -- 18.4 cents per gallon for gas, and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel -- is directed into the federal Highway Trust Fund. The fund is used to assist states finance large-scale infrastructure projects.

Congress convenes Jan. 3, and Trump is sworn in Jan. 20.