* I’m not sure that LaHood’s testimony convinced a single legislator to vote for doubling the Motor Fuel Tax, or that Barack Obama’s Secretary of Transportation cooled out any Republicans, but whatevs, he was in town so that’s news…
Former Republican congressman and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday that Illinois lawmakers need to hike the state’s motor fuel tax, but they’ll also need to convince some residents that they will spend the new revenue wisely. […]
“Illinois is one big pothole right now,” he said. “If the General Assembly raised the gas tax and fixed up the roads and bridges, people would be very happy.”
While the state needs to raise the gas tax, LaHood said he worried that lawmakers would have to convince Illinois residents who already shoulder one of the nation’s highest motor fuel taxes to trust them with spending the new revenue responsibly.
“The money has to be spent on roads and bridges. You can’t defer this money to pay for state police salaries or to pay for other things related to road safety or whatever,” he said.
* Also, lemme know when Quincy Republicans Rep. Randy Frese and Sen. Jil Tracy are ready to double the MFT…
LaHood and Tom Oakley, a former newspaper publisher in Quincy, told the committee they would help lobby for an infrastructure bill when the legislature heads back to Springfield for the final legislative push Tuesday.
“What you have today, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, are two Republicans from downstate Illinois who are promoting to fix up our infrastructure and raise the gas tax to do it,” LaHood said.
LaHood’s testimony was followed by eight panels of speakers requesting added infrastructure spending that would benefit their varying organizations, businesses, agencies and boards. Those representatives were from transportation agencies, port authorities, higher education institutions, environmental organizations, pedestrian and bicycling advocates and other groups.
Mary Sue Barrett of the Metropolitan Planning Council — an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on regional growth — said those debating infrastructure spending often ask the wrong questions.
“First, we have to ask what’s the cost of inaction,” she said.
But, hey, so far it’s the only funding plan on the table and it’s strongly backed by Local 150 and has the support of the Illinois Chamber (albeit coupled with the phase-out of the sales tax on fuel). Even Senate GOP Leader Bill Brady wants to use MFT money. So, who the heck knows what will happen?
It would be helpful if the governor picked a lane, however.