After a four-year drought, Georgia has a member back on the U.S. House Transportation Committee as it develops a closely scrutinized highway bill.
But don’t expect U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, a Lawrenceville Republican, to let loose the federal money spigot for metro Atlanta’s clogged roadways.
Woodall is a fan of “devolution,” moving what the federal government takes in, via the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax, to the states without as much federal overhead and red tape.
“No, we actually don’t need to raise the gas tax,” Woodall said. “We have plenty of money coming in. What we have to do is reorient the responsibilities that we have.”
The no-tax sentiment is shared by House Republicans, even as some Senate Republicans were making noises about an increase.
“We won’t pass a gas tax increase,” U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters in Hershey, Pa., where House and Senate Republicans gathered last week for a retreat. Ryan is the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, so he would know.
That leaves the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to look elsewhere for funding.
Woodall is on board with a bill by delegation mate U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, a Republican from Ranger, to send federal revenue directly to the states in a kind of block grant and gradually reduce the gas tax. Yet Woodall acknowledged that cutting the gas tax would be an unlikely political feat.
The highway trust fund is set to run out of money May 31, after Congress passed a patch last year that gave lip service to the need for an alternative to the current funding system. But a consensus solution is far off.
Woodall said Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., will allow a collaborative process for the highway bill, along with a pending Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization and other issues.
Woodall wants to consider cuts to Amtrak, which he said can be effective in places such as the Northeast but is slow and impractical in other regions.
“Can we fly everyone to Seattle who’s taking the train to Seattle instead of paying the subsidized Amtrak to get them to Seattle?” he said. “Yes we could.”
The questions faced in Washington mirror those in Georgia: a need for more money, given the gas tax’s diminishing value, but a lack of consensus on where to find it.
Conservatives point to more localized decisions and chopping wasteful or unnecessary spending. Liberals say that won’t be enough to accomplish a wish list that, by the way, should include more mass transit.
While devolution could, in theory, direct more money home, Woodall said his state Legislature counterparts should not expect a federal bailout.
“I don’t pretend to know what’s going on in the Gold Dome over the next three months, but I suspect there’s going to be an awful lot of transportation talked about there, because (as Georgians) we aren’t willing to wait for Washington to solve our problems,” Woodall said. “They’re going to go solve it themselves.”
Smells like team spirit
Georgia Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue is settling into his new job, with a D.C. apartment procured and a nearly full complement of staff in Washington and Georgia. It’s a mix of campaign hands and Capitol Hill veterans.
Some key names:
- Chief of Staff Derrick Dickey was a top consultant for Perdue’s campaign and part of the core team to launch the businessman’s first-ever campaign in 2013. Dickey had been a spokesman for Perdue’s cousin Sonny Perdue when he was governor.
- Communications Director Megan Whittemore held the same title in the campaign, coming on for the general election. She had previously worked for Eric Cantor when he was the U.S. House majority leader.
- Legislative Director P.J. Waldrop held the same post in former Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ office. He’s also worked for Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
- State Policy Director Martha Zoller joined the Perdue campaign last year after a career as a conservative radio host in Gainesville. She also ran for Congress in 2012, losing a tightly contested Republican runoff to now-U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.
- General Counsel John Eunice was a top campaign aide for Jack Kingston’s campaign during the contentious primary, but he joined Perdue for the general election as statewide field director.
Vote of the week
On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed, 218-209, an amendment to a spending bill to block President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for young migrants brought here illegally by their parents.
Yes: Rick Allen, R-Evans; Buddy Carter, R-Pooler; Doug Collins, R-Gainesville; Tom Graves, R-Ranger; Jody Hice, R-Monroe; Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville; Tom Price, R-Roswell; Austin Scott, R-Tifton; Lynn Westmoreland, R-Coweta County; Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville.
No: Sanford Bishop, D-Albany; Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia; John Lewis, D-Atlanta.
Not voting: David Scott, D-Atlanta.
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