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Ray Lahood: Raise the fuel tax to return nation to ‘envy of the world’ on infrastructure

| May 21, 2014
In a wide-ranging Q&A with members of the audience, the former DOT Secretary and congressman also noted the Google car as a future reality, saying he's been "stunned by the amount of money that Google and others are putting into driverless cars.... Maybe they’re the next Henry Ford."

In a wide-ranging Q&A with members of the audience at the ALK tech summit, the former DOT Secretary and congressman also noted the Google car as a future reality, saying he’s been “stunned by the amount of money that Google and others are putting into driverless cars…. Maybe they’re the next Henry Ford.”

Speaking to attendees of the ALK Transportation Technology Summit in Princeton, N.J., former United States Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made a case for raising the federal fuel tax by 10 cents a gallon and indexing the level to inflation going forward. With China building infrastructure at a rapid clip, “America is one big pothole,” he said. “It’s not just because of the brutal winter” large swathes of the country experienced in 2013-14. “It’s because we haven’t kept up with our infrastructure.”

Doing so, said LaHood, would deliver economic benefits to communities across what he called the “greatest nation on Earth” and ensure that the onetime “envy of the world” on transport infrastructure matters doesn’t continue to be the “laughingstock of the world.”

“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.”

While LaHood did note favor by states for the use of tolls on roadways as an option to states (provided tolls collected actually go to the maintenance and/or expansion of the road) and potential of vehicle-miles-traveled tax projects, the federal fuel tax should remain the principle mechanism to fund the Highway Trust Fund, he said.


Senate highway bill would extend MAP-21 six years, bill low on trucking provisions

Not wanting to mess with success, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee delivered the policy portion of a six-year surface transportation reauthorization late Monday.

LaHood pointed to a water-resources bill that passed the House recently with broad support as evidence that Congress may be moving toward a dynamic where potential for compromise between both parties could deliver a long-term highway bill that truly addresses infrastructure.

While he commended the Senate public-works committee’s recent proposal of a six-year extension of MAP-21, he also offered criticism for its lack of initiatives to increase revenues going into the Highway Trust Fund. “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.”

  • Douglas

    The four wheelers should have to pay the same amount of tax’s for fuel, license fee’s and tolls then. They are the one’s that reap the most from the roads being maintained. But as you all have noticed the states and federal government steal the money and use it for other pet projects.

  • Kendell

    That’s why there should be a federal law forbidding the use of tax revenues for any other purpose than what the original tax was created to fund. No more shell games, “its here… nope fooled you… now we have to tax you some more”.

  • Jack Simon

    What a load of smack.
    When they come up with the numbers of where they spend the money and show me that it is going to the purpose that it was collected for I would start to listen to them on more taxes. Not until then.

  • matt

    What about all these hybrids and electric cars. How do they get to use the roads with out paying any fuel taxes. Need to start taxing the hybrids.

  • Dave Nichols

    only if the tax money is used for roads. no crap like bike trails and turtle bridges etc

  • Rich Miller

    States are looking for money huh? Don’t raise taxed or toll the roads. Legalize marijuana. Colorado is making tons of money and lowering their crime rates drastically. They’re the perfect model that other states should follow

  • DavidMac

    “The power to tax includes the power to destroy” (as the US Supreme Court once held). Ray LaHood is clueless (but a good Obama supporter/sycophant). A robust economy produces more tax revenue, but simply raising taxes stifles the economy. Democrats can’t understand that simple concept.

  • Bill Hood

    Nothing in here is indicating that he is talking about just diesel tax but across the board tax increase on ALL fuel.This should have zero impact on trucking as FSC will just increase with this. But it will have an impact on consumers in general.

    It is interesting to see how states will sneak increased taxes in areas that consumers tend not to understand – fuel tax, sin tax, communication taxes, etc.

    Something will happen on this and it will have a short-term positive impact. But let’s hope that it is written so that it can only be used for highway funds so that when we have the next downturn we won’t see it raided to fund other pet projects.

  • Cary Davis

    Stop stealing the taxes for ‘pork’ projects! The government makes plenty of money to do everything they wish to do, but they mismanage the funds or flat ‘give it away’ to the rest of the world while we are falling apart. Why are Americans the ‘piggy bank’ for the rest of the world?

  • Cary Davis

    “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.”<—- there is a quote from the article above. That sure looks like he is implying that the trucking companies are going to bear the brunt of the tax.

  • Barney

    The problem with raising the fuel taxes is that it is never specifically earmarked for roads and bridges. It ends up in a general fund and gets spent other ways. All that needs to be done is dedicate what we are taxed right now to infrastructure and infrastructure only.
    Oh, and referring to LaHood’s comments about China. Sure, they are making big strides in improving their infrastructure. They aren’t subject to the crushing regulations and government oversight that we are here in the United States, and as a result their economy is thriving.

  • Rich

    No, the dollars should come from more taxes to the companies and business owners whom the politicitions have rewrote laws to allow paying little or no taxes. We as a people need to continue to fight the 1% whom only care about themselves.

  • tiredOfGreedyPolitician

    It’s because of greedy politician like him, who have no idea how to run this country except how to fill their pockets and waist money sitting around talking all the time….clean up Government

  • zee

    this from the man who was secretly sent to Mexico to sign off on NAFTA. By obummer.
    This action should have been taken by Congress before the last prez election. Them dems wait to the last minute to take cred for this foot dragging action.
    trillions in debt to keep big munitions, big oil, big car companies, big real estate and big banks in business, not to mention the big EOBR vendors rubbing their hands together in Congress’s pockets .

    if congress and obummer had funded road construction and repair, how much less might fuel tax have been? Might have stimulated the economy by putting people to work…congress just stimulates itself…gigantic circle jerk.

    Now the tax will be framed to make the most for them and their construction company cronies….

  • Tagalong2102

    You’re right Kendell. Just look at
    New York only 25 cents of every dollar collected in fuel tax goes to roads!

  • Pingback: LaHood and Foxx square off over highway funding | Browse News & Topics in the Transportation Industry

  • Rambo part 5

    After Pounding my AZZ off up and down 5, 101 etc….etc…I think Jerry, you should rethink your bragging words about how great your transportation system is. Apparently you dont get out much. We dole out tons of money every year toward ROAD / MILEAGE TAX. Where the hell is all the money going. We are made to drive in the right lanes for the most part. I believe it should be the opposite. Let the 4 wheelers spend their commute in the right lanes…INCLUDING YOU JERRY, AND SEE HOW FAST A CLASS ACTION LAW SUIT to repair damaged vehicles arises and roads become smoother. Cal. should be responsible for the cost of repair to trucks for the damage the neglected roads cause. I’m all for taxes to repair roads but get them repaired, especially for the folks that keep yor state moving forward. If all the trucks took a week off the state would literally stop. Your citizens would be screaming for toilet paper first and then everything else. and do I need to mention the effect it would have on your economy. And please dont give me the bullshitz about how Cal. feeds America. Accross the land to the East is a state called Florida with for the most part much better crops. At least I dont find bugs in my lettuce. As for your double standard speed limits, I go along with the speed limits when it’s hot but when it cools down the speed should be the same for all drivers. And should you decide to go with road tax as an alternative to mileage, remember that we idle trucks a lot so you would have to figure out how to screw the trucking industry to make up for your stupidity. Well good luck with all that and I hope you don’t have any earth quakes soon and your brave firefighters get the fires under control. What a shame, All the timber gone to waste. Well thats a whole nother sore spot with me and I’ll comment that issue in another forum. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.