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 TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat 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 Wicker The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation GOP lawmaker: 'Dangerous' abuse of Interpol by Russia, China, Venezuela Suburban anxiety drives GOP on guns 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 McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh Senator asked FBI to follow up on new information about Kavanaugh last year Congress must reinstate assault weapons ban 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.”