Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania has officially been appointed as the new Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Previous Chairman John Mica was term-limited by internal House Republican rules.
Mica was interested in continuing, but the writing was on the wall. He withdrew a request for a waiver to continue as Chair, and ultimately endorsed Shuster in a letter published by Politico. He’ll continue to serve on the Committee, will almost certainly chair a Subcommittee, and will continue to be an influence on federal transportation legislation.
Shuster commented on his appointment:
“Transportation issues are among the most critical that we face in Congress and as a nation. Our transportation infrastructure is the backbone that supports economic growth and global competitiveness. Working together in the 113th Congress, the committee will focus on strengthening America’s transportation networks to make us more efficient, more competitive, and more prosperous.
I look forward to continuing to work to reform programs, focus our resources where they are needed most, restore regulatory balance, and better manage our federal assets.”
Transportation stakeholders can be encouraged by Shuster’s initial comments that he’s open to increasing the gas tax and implementing a tax or fee based on miles driven:
“Shuster said a vehicle-miles tax, raising the gasoline tax, tolling and public-private partnerships should be among options Congress considers to close the gap between the amount it needs for highway and transit spending and the money available,” (Shuster Won’t Rule Out Raising Gasoline Tax for Roads, BloombergBusinessweek).
Shuster’s willingness to study a tax on miles driven makes him, in that respect, more progressive on transportation than President Obama and USDOT Secretary LaHood. After the latter suggested looking at the option, the White House quickly refuted LaHood and said it “will not be the policy of the Obama administration.” Time will tell if the White House takes a different view in its second term.
Shuster (read his bio) has served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee since elected to Congress in 2001. He has previously served as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials and as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.