Ray LaHood pushes for 10-cent fuel tax increase, talks importance of infrastructure

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Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood speaking May 21 at the ALK Summit in New Jersey.Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood speaking May 21 at the ALK Summit in New Jersey.

Former Department of Transportation head Ray LaHood says the federal fuel tax should be raised 10 cents a gallon and should be tied to inflation. LaHood, President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Transportation until about a year ago, spoke at the ALK Transportation Technology Summit in Princeton, N.J., May 21.

Global competitiveness is at stake with transportation funding, LaHood said, especially considering the rapid pace in which China is bolstering its infrastructure. “America is one big pothole,” he said. “It’s not just because of the brutal winter. It’s because we haven’t kept up with our infrastructure.”

The U.S. is a “laughingstock of the world” as far as infrastructure funding goes, where it once was the “envy of the world,” he said.

“I know you in the trucking business pay a lot of taxes,” he added, “but if we want to get back to being number one [in infrastructure] …, we have to have the resources to do it.”

And while funding measures like tolls and taxes on vehicle miles remain in the conversation among states, the federal fuel tax is the best way to fund the U.S.’ Highway Trust Fund, he said.

LaHood commended the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works Committee for unveiling and passing a bill last week — a six-year extension of MAP-21 — but he also criticized the bill for its lack of initiatives to improve Highway Trust Fund revenue. “They’ve introduced a bill,” he said, “but there’s no money for it and there’s no talk of any money for it.”

He urged attendees to engage their Congress members and Senators on the issue. “We need your help,” he said. “Every one of you has a representative in Congress, and every one of you has two Senators…. You need to start talking to them. These are the people you send to Washington to move America forward – not to stagnate – and to keep America No. 1.”