Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood ran into intense political opposition this week from members of Congress over his proposed fix for the Highway Trust Fund, which runs out of money this summer.
LaHood, a politician with more experience dealing with the legislative branches than with transportation issues, was confronted by Minnesota Democrat James Oberstar, who was not happy with LaHood’s proposal that would essentially continue the bankrupt status quo for 18 months beyond the end of this fiscal year on September 30th. LaHood just wants to inject billions in cash to prop up the account and keep the funding to states flowing. This, of course, pushes real policy decisions that are now required into the future. Oberstar wants sweeping changes and will introduce a bill next week.
Both were ultimately taking self-interested positions. Passing transportation legislation in Congress is a complicated process, now made more complicated as we veer toward depression that has seen the revenue raised by fuel taxes for the Highway Trust Fund plummet.
While President Obama continues with high approval ratings, deficit spending and/or tax increases to cover the rising sea of red ink in the federal budget are extremely unpopular. So LaHood, an Obama appointee, played for time by deferring into the future either cutting highway programs or increasing taxes. (more…)