U.S. transportation secretary says Oberstar bill must wait

Tranportation secretary
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood voiced the White House's opposition Thursday to the speedy passage of Rep. James Oberstar's $500 billion six-year federal transportation bill.

In an interview with All Things Considered, LaHood said the White House continues to support an 18-month extension of the existing federal transportation bill.

"When the bill expired at the end of September, there was no way we were going to find $500 billion to do the kind of bill that the president wants, that Ray LaHood wants, that Jim Oberstar wants, that the vast majority of Congress wants," he said. "That's why we asked for the extension."

Minnesota DFL Congressman Oberstar continues to oppose an extension, and wants Congress to pass a new bill this year. Oberstar chairs the House Transportation Committee, and has been a vocal advocate for increased transportation funding.

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On Thursday, LaHood also reiterated his opposition to Oberstar's proposed 10-cent gasoline tax, which Oberstar has said would partially fund the bill.

"We have a lousy economy," LaHood said. "This is not the time to be telling people we're going to raise gasoline taxes."

Despite these objections, LaHood said that he supports the content of Oberstar's bill.

"He's put together a very good bill," LaHood said. "We don't disagree with anything that's in the bill."

LaHood was in Minnesota Thursday to deliver a speech at the Economic Club of Minnesota. He also toured Union Depot in St. Paul, the future site of a federally-funded transportation hub.