As Democrats make another push for infrastructure talks with the White House, Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao reportedly evaded questions about increasing Federal motor fuels taxes and touted private sector investment in infrastructure.
House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass), who met with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about approaching the White House said, “the three of us believe that the President still wants an infrastructure bill and we’re prepared to work on it,” Politico reported. (A May meeting between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) designed to discuss how to pay for a large increase in infrastructure investment ended abruptly.)
Chairman Neal’s comments were made just two days prior to reports that Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao dodged questions about increasing the Federal motor fuels taxes while speaking at a Heritage Foundation Event.
According to Politico, when asked if motor fuels taxes should be increased, Secretary Chao said that while it certainly has been a topic of discussion, “that’s a larger issue connected to what are we going to do in our infrastructure bill. Let’s decide on that first, and then we will also come to how are we going to fund, how are we going to pay for it.”
Secretary Chao said that rolling back corporate tax cuts is “probably not on the table” as a way to pay for infrastructure but repeated calls for leveraging private dollars to pay for infrastructure. (In February 2018 the Trump Administration unveiled an infrastructure proposal that included a heavy reliance on public-private partnerships to pay for infrastructure.)
Secretary Chao also indicated a preference for tackling the funding issues in a surface transportation bill rather than a standalone infrastructure bill. The current surface transportation reauthorization is set to expire in 2020.
Senate leaders have said that they aim to mark up their version of the reauthorization by August recess.
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