Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will be up on Capitol Hill again Thursday morning to field questions from lawmakers on President Obama's proposed $556 billion in new transportation spending in his 2012 budget.
LaHood has called the plan visionary, but some senators, like Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), have disagreed.
Sessions told LaHood last week he was “flabbergasted” by the proposal, which he said would require an unspecified new $435 billion tax to pay for the new spending. The administration has not specified how the new spending would be paid for. In response to Sessions' questioning, LaHood only said, "We want to work with Congress on that."
LaHood has ruled out an increase in the federal gas tax, saying President Obama was not interested in hiking the tax in a down economy.
LaHood has also said recently that the only way there is going to be any big federal investment in transportation is if it is this year, because next year is an election year.
“Of our opportunities, this is the year,” he said during a speech to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in Washington. “If we don’t get something significant done this year, I think it will be very difficult. … This is the time to do it.”
LaHood may have an easier sell Thursday with the Senate Appropriations Committee Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee than he did with Sessions because the subcommittee's ranking member is Susan Collins (R), who is generally more moderate than the Alabama senator.