Ex-Transportation chief: tax writers key to Trump’s infrastructure plan

Ex-Transportation chief: tax writers key to Trump’s infrastructure plan

Former Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood thinks tax writers are key to the success of President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

“Tax reform, that’s where the solution lies,” LaHood said during a Department of Transportation event on Thursday. “It lies in the Ways and Means Committee, it lies in tax reform.”

LaHood, a former Republican congressman, said he’s encouraged by Trump’s pledge to make massive investments in the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Still, LaHood warned that the funding offset will be the biggest hurdle.

“What a bonanza for America if that happens,” LaHood said. “There’s no dispute about what needs to be done. The big question is: how do we pay for it?

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LaHood thinks everything should be on the table, including a hike in the federal gasoline tax. But raising the gas tax, which hasn’t been done in over 20 years, has long been a nonstarter in Congress.

Lawmakers have instead been leaning toward the idea of taxing corporate earnings that are stored abroad when that money returns to the U.S., a process called "repatriation," and using that revenue to pay for infrastructure spending.

But Republicans have also floated repatriation as a way to finance tax reform.

“I like the idea of using at least a part of repatriation to pay for infrastructure,” said Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders repeats with NH primary win, but with narrower victory Senators press NCAA on compensation for college athletes Overnight Defense: Inside Trump's 4B Pentagon budget | Highlights include .4B for Space Force, preview of Air Force One paint job | Senate eyes Wednesday debate on Iran war powers | 109 US troops diagnosed with brain injuries from attack MORE (R-Miss.). “I think there has been a debate in the government about to what extent to use repatriation to pave the way for tax reform. I tend to believe there’s enough revenue out there to do both.”

LaHood sounded confident that Elaine Chao, Trump’s pick for Transportation Secretary, was the right fit the job. Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE (R-Ky.), ran the Department of Labor under George W. Bush.

“We’ve got a new secretary here who has a little influence on Capitol Hill,” LaHood said. “Maybe all the stars are aligned correctly.”