Posted: 5:40 pm Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

A stark message from Ray LaHood on Georgia’s cloutless D.C. position 

By Jim Galloway

Former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood, who spoke in Atlanta this week. AJC file/Vino Wong, vwong@ajc.com

Former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood, who spoke in Atlanta this week. AJC file/Vino Wong, vwong@ajc.com

The Rev. Ray LaHood delivered brimstone in Atlanta this week.

Strictly speaking, he is not ordained. LaHood is a former Illinois congressman and, until recently, was the token Republican in the cabinet of President Barack Obama, serving as secretary of transportation.

But he is now a traveling evangelist, preaching against the sin of skin-flintery – or, more specifically, the current attitude that someone else should pay for our use of American roads, bridges and rail.

”We’re in a mess in America when it comes to transportation. Every transit system is 50 years old and crumbling. The interstates are crumbling. Bridges are falling down,” LaHood sermonized on Tuesday, building his argument for a 10-cent increase in the federal gas tax.

His overflowing state Capitol congregation was an eager one – an assembly of state lawmakers and business honchos who have been assigned the task of finding more cash for Georgia’s transportation needs.

As is the case with many revivals, LaHood had a setup man to warm the crowd. Keith Golden, Georgia’s transportation commissioner, told lawmakers the state was spending just enough to repave 2 percent of Georgia roads each year. That’s one layer every 50 years for your path to work.

But Preacher LaHood was the star attraction. And he didn’t limit himself to the topic of cash.

While he gave Georgia kudos for the Nathan Deal/Kasim Reed partnership that has won Washington’s promise of $650 million to dredge the Port of Savannah, LaHood specifically called out the state for committing a grave political sin: Ignoring the role of day-to-day clout in Washington.

Last week, Congress passed a short-term, $10 billion bailout of the shrinking federal Highway Trust Fund. But ultimately, a larger bill will be required. When that happens, LaHood said, Georgia will be in no position to get its fair share of those federal funds.

That’s because a state whose economy is based on the ability to move people and goods from Point A to Point B has not a single member of Congress – in the House or Senate – who sits on one of the two transportation committees that will decide where this desperately needed cash is to go.

“In the next six years, Congress is going to write a new transportation bill. Are you going to have somebody in the room in Washington when that bill is written – that’ll be a voice for Georgia?” LaHood asked.

“You’ve got to step up here. You’ve got to send people to Washington who are willing to help you provide the resources. You cannot do what you want to do in this state with your own resources,” LaHood said.

Tea partyers will not do, he suggested. Lately, the one member of the Georgia delegation who has focused specifically on transportation has been U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger. Graves has suggested that federal gas tax revenue simply be shipped back to the states to spend as they wish.

A non-starter, LaHood declared. “If that happened, we wouldn’t have an interstate system. Some states wouldn’t have the money to build them – like in North Dakota, South Dakota. States like that,” he said.

For many in the room, LaHood’s declaration of Georgia’s cloutless position in Washington was a forehead-slapping moment of revelation. Rather like the visitor who walks through your door and delivers the news that some people have toilets inside the house – and are doing quite well by them.

Once you give the idea some thought, its truth becomes rather obvious.

For years, because of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, transportation was part of the portfolio carried by a congressional member from metro Atlanta. When he was in the House, Johnny Isakson hefted that suitcase.

The last Georgian to serve as a member of a House or Senate transportation committee in Washington was U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland. He left in 2011 – and for good reason.

At the height of the Great Recession, Westmoreland’s congressional district had more bank failures than any in the country. And so Westmoreland shifted his attention to the House banking committee.

Westmoreland now serves on the House steering committee that determines committee assignments in that chamber. The Coweta County congressman told me that his hell-or-high-water goal is to put two Georgia members on the House transportation committee come January.

“Florida already has six,” Westmoreland said.

One of the two is likely to be Buddy Carter, the GOP state senator from Pooler who is now the favorite in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah. There is a Democrat in the race, but the First District is drawn for a Republican.

“I would have an interest in it, simply because we need somebody on that committee,” Carter said this week.

But Barry Loudermilk, the Republican state senator who will replace U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta next year, is likely to be an ally in Graves’ effort to disassemble federal transportation funding.

Likewise Jody Hice, a Republican pastor and conservative talk show host who now is the favorite to replace U.S. Rep. Paul Broun of Athens – though Hice has Democratic opposition.

This was the dilemma at the heart of Preacher LaHood’s sermon. In order to stake your claim to a large pot of Washington money, you have to believe that the pot should actually exist.

And many Georgians don’t. Even those who drive.

51 comments
The_Real_Centrist
The_Real_Centrist

As far as transportation funding is concerned, if you want to play, you better pay.  I wish those on the political right understood this. 

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

How strange, LaHood was not talking this line when he was standing with that Statesman John Lewis hold the Feds check for 47 million for the Atlanta Street Car that runs from nowhere to nowhere. John Lewis has been in the House for decades, where is his influence ? Oh, I see, he is still living on the Edmund Pettus Bridge over in Alabama, maybe he is politicking for Alabama transportation .

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

" Are you going to have somebody in the room in Washington when that bill is written – that’ll be a voice for Georgia?”  The answer is NO they already have their marching orders to obstruct and block the President. 

“You run against Harry Reid, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi ” ~~~~~David Perdue July 23, 2014


Loudermilk agreed Obama deserved impeachment

And finally Georgia has found itself on the same side of an issue as America's Dumbest Congressman that "issue" involves a conspiracy theory about the scary Muslims infiltrating the country in order to impose religion on people.

The House candidate (Jody Hice) believes the Muslim Brotherhood is secretly infiltrating the United States in a plot to impose Sharia law on the entire country.


Yes ladies and gentlemen the clowns the Georgia GOP want to send to Washington are talking about everything but what matters to Georgia, Georgia will remain clout less in Washington.  No Healthcare, no highways, absolutely nothing but the same BS that is going on now.  Priceless



cheffian
cheffian

IMHO, LaHood is part of the problem. The system is corrupt and should not be based in DC. We need to pass Rep Tom Graves' Transportation Empowerment Act which returns funding dollars to the States. Let's stop the redistribution of Georgia's tax dollars to DC which only skims off their percentage and requires us to beg for our own money back.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Graves shows his lack of brains, the GOP wants everything but don't want to pay for it.

Joeleejohnson
Joeleejohnson

We in Georgia don't receive our share of the federal gas tax collected now. So we are suppose to be in favor of increasing the federal tax on fuel so we can get even less of "our share" of the loot. I'd err on the side of Rep. Graves--'Cept for one thing--The tax on fuel should never be shipped to Washington. Then it wouldn't have to be "shipped back".

NWGAL
NWGAL

Since businesses like cheap labor and one way to maintain cheap labor is to avoid paying employee health insurance costs, keeping workers part time and encouraging them to get on  Medicaid and SNAP  is one effective method of passing those costs from the employer to the country as a whole. But arguing with teap conservatives is like conversing with a wall. No amount of reason or facts has any impact.

Baumer_1
Baumer_1

What a moment in GA political history.

It's about time a Republican who knows something went down there to scold the know nothing conservatives in the legislature.

Everyone know Lahood is correct...but the ideologues apparently don't care (td for example). They would rather entrench themselves in racism and retardation than study up on the reality of the situation: Georgia's economy is fueled by two things, it is a hub and the cost of living is low. Afterall, nobody thinks moving to GA is a good idea...they do it because they are told to by their employers.

Neither Loudermilk nor Hice will do anything. After they win their gerrymandered districtsos.s they will go to DC, make mid money than they ever have, and do nothing. Just like the rest of the teatards in Congress.

honested
honested

If two 'low tax' conservatives are talking on a street corner, how do you tell which one is lying?

td1234
td1234

The Federal government has more money today than anytime of the history of the country. The state is within $200 million from having the most revenues received in the history of the state. 


The problem is not revenue but what other things the government is spending its money on. 


If we must have revenue then we need toll booths 10 miles inside the border on all the HWY ways and let all the people passing through the state to go to FL or westward pay for the roads. 

honested
honested

Ray Lahood speaks the obvious truth and the teaklan makes signs of the cross and covers themselves with ashes....

How stupid can these people be?

The gas tax should increase by 20 cents a gallon to make up for the fourteen years of absolute neglect...an amount that wouldn't really be noticeable given the day-to-day fluctuations brought to us by petroleum speculators...excuse me, I mean 'free market providers'.

When the facts are in front of you and all you can do is obfuscate, prepare for the impending disaster, because 'chance' always provides raspberries for those who ignore reality.

JTGeorgia
JTGeorgia

Because Georgia charges state and local sales taxes on motor fuel not all funds are dedicated to transportation. 3 of the 4 percent goes to DOT and 1 percent to general fund. What is interesting is that the local sales tax on gasoline, currently about 9 cents per gallon is not dedicated to transportation, instead ALL goes into local coffers. Here's how we pay: state motor fuel tax: 7.5 cpg dedicated. State sales tax 12 cpg of which 9 cents is dedicated and 3 cents is not. Local sales tax 9 cents per gallon not dedicated. Total state/local taxes at pump: 28.5 cents per gallon, of which only 16.5 is dedicated to transportation. Georgia has one of the higher total taxes on gas in S/E, higher than SC, AL, and TN, but much goes to non transportation uses.

AvailableName
AvailableName

The Lord will provide. Or something like that.

hamiltonAZ
hamiltonAZ

these nebs say they are constitutionalists, but have no understanding of the role of a representative. Georgia has been grossly underrepresented in DC for so long it's pathetic. Given the new delegation, it's going to be a while longer.

you get nothing for your district when you spout about how you think it's wrong for your district to get anything.

Whose leg are they pulling?

hamiltonAZ
hamiltonAZ

"...Barry Loudermilk, the Republican state senator who will replace U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta next year, is likely to be an ally in Graves’ effort to disassemble federal transportation funding."

Georgians should start now with a recall petition of this cracked bulb. Georgia's Terminus was the beginnings of making Georgia the gateway to the South.

Now we have people who would be frightened to take the MMPI.

Transportation is the past, present and future. Say no to the naysayers.

NWGAL
NWGAL

Lower taxes, lower taxes, lower taxes, and then complain that government is not doing its job. Gut something severely enough and it stops being functional. To verify, just check our roads.

EdUktr
EdUktr

Less spending and lower taxes are faster and more direct ways to benefit individual Georgians. And to help Georgia companies compete globally. 

As for clout, we have more Republican Congressmen and therefore a greater voice in the Republican led House of Representatives. With analysts now predicting Republican control of both houses of Congress next year—a victory by David Perdue (now leading in polls) will enhance that voice.

http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2014-georgia-senate-perdue-vs-nunn

DS
DS

Great article, Jim. Thanks for covering the transportation meeting and reporting on it here.

Maybe I'm naive, but for some reason I sense that there are Georgia legislators who would like to find a way for the state to invest in transportation again. They know that it would be good for business and good for the economy. The can-do spirit that people like Ivan Allen tapped into 50 years ago might be rekindled by new leaders with vision and the ability to inspire others.

The trouble is figuring out how to pay for it, especially since so many politicians have taken a loyalty oath not to do anything that would require hard cash. But I think most Georgians would gladly chip in a little money to help pay for something worthwhile, as long as it's done efficiently and wisely.

So now it's up to the legislators to be creative in figuring out a transportation plan that will be acceptable  to Georgia voters across the state. I think they can do it. I think people are tired of watching our resources crumble and would like to see us moving forward again.

PSWallace
PSWallace

"In order to stake your claim to a large pot of Washington money, you have to believe that the pot should actually exist."

Perhaps it is a case of being as large as it is. Much larger than the cup which fills it.

DS
DS

@Jefferson1776

I think you're right. It's a hangover from the recent austerity movement. When deficits increased, as they always do during a recession, conservatives jumped at the chance to cut government programs they never really liked anyway. Of course, this crippled the recovery, as any first-year economics student could have told you it would.

But now conservatives have become trapped in their own austerity dogma and are struggling to justify government spending that they really want.

Fortunately, most voters are way ahead of the politicians on this. They understand the simple logic that, if you want something, you have to agree on a reasonable way to pay for it. If we can, then let's go.

PoliticalOutsider
PoliticalOutsider

Joelee

Georgia is a donor state on motor fuel taxes. We get about 94 cents for every dollar we sent. The federal law says every state would get at least 95 cents, but that doesn't happen in reality.

It sounds like from your shallow comment, that maybe you never drive your car outside the state of Georgia. For the rest of us, I think most people enjoy having an interstate highway system. Has the thought ever occurred to you that if every state kept all of the federal motor fuel money, that some states would not have an interstate highway? Try Wyoming or South Dakota. Those are large states based on land mass, yet have a very low population. The motor fuel generated in those states isn't enough to build all the interstate highways that traverse those states. So states like Georgia and many others, sent about 5 cents of every dollar to the poorer states so EVERyBODY can enjoy a federal highway system that doesn't stop at the state line of the sparsely populated states. I suspect you would call that socialism or communism. I call it having the best interstate highway system in the WORLD! Duh.

DS
DS

@Joeleejohnson

I didn't realize that. Thank you for sharing this info.

The funding formula could easily be fixed to make it more fair, and legislation has been introduced several times to do that. It just hasn't passed. Maybe if we got some good representatives on the Transportation committees we might get somewhere.

I disagree with dismantling the Federal Highway system and leaving it to the states, though. It's too important to leave it to some states who wouldn't take care of their portion.

But I do agree with making the allocation more fair. Thanks for bringing that up.

td1234
td1234

@honested If two "high tax" progressives are talking on a street corner, you know both are wards of the state and are on welfare. 

honested
honested

@td1234 

The number of people in this country awaiting provision of the basic services that are the purview of the Government is greater today than at any time in the history of the country...

Thus, your 'more money' argument is so much warm methane.

The problem is DEFINITELY REVENUE, and the simple fact that we have ignored the need for minor increases in revenue for 14 years. Entropy is not forgiving of stupidity.

If we must have revenue, it should be at the GAS PUMPS, the only place where Georgians can vote with their wallet to take a gentler footprint on our infrastructure, or barrel on with their 10,000 lb Bronto Deluxe while pretending that some imaginary friend in the sky will make it ok.

There, tiny dog, fixed it for you!!!!


Reality does not visit your home.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@JTGeorgia OK JT...if it is what you say, then the addition of assigning the one % of sales tax to transportation only provides just over $100 M. Where does the rest come to address our needs? Local governments do not need roads/transportation improvements. Remember the state of Georgia is only responsible for state routes and interstates here along with some major arterials. Also we are woefully underfunding transit.

honested
honested

@hamiltonAZ 

Apparently, out in 'gooberstan' they enjoy a good leg pulling.

Otherwise, why would they tie such incompetents to a total salary and benefits of over a million a year?

honested
honested

@NWGAL 

Lower taxes will never benefit anyone who depends on the standard services that Civilized Societies have decided to provide.

Lower taxes only benefit those who have found a way to use the Society to elude responsibility.

td1234
td1234

@NWGAL We cut our yearly Medicaid spending in half and then we have the money to pay for roads. 

honested
honested

@EdUktr 

This wasn't on the hour so I can only assume it was an intestinal incident of some sort.

honested
honested

@EdUktr '

How many decades does it take before that 'plan' kicks in?

PoliticalOutsider
PoliticalOutsider

EdUbonehead

Did you even read the article before you made your non-sense comment? Obviously not. Do you understand the article is about funding transportation in America? Do you understand Federal and State gas taxes are DEDICATED funds that can ONLY be used for transportation projects? Do you understand the infrastructure in America and in Georgia is crumbling due to age and over use? Spending less is NOT AN OPTION. A civilized nation has to have a modern transportation system for commerce and national security reasons.

You yap the same non-sense 30 or 40 times a day. Your brain can only crank out the same simple minded "lower spending, lower taxes" Tea Party line over and over. A constructive solution is beyond your ability. As for your assessment of our state's political clout in Washington, again all it shows is your complete incompetence. Jody Hice, Barry Loudermilk, Tom Graves will only make Georgia the laughing stock of America.

Ed, you have no clue.

honested
honested

@DS 

Of course, the State could increase it's pathetically low motor fuel tax as well and use the money HERE on the projects most important to the STATE.

Of course the majority of our legislature is ideologically math challenged and if 80% of the revenue necessary only gets 60% of the job done, they're cool with that, while the rest of us have to suffer the consequences.

td1234
td1234

@honested Why is that? Is it because more people today are not doing the basic things to make sure they are not poor? Do not have children without being and staying married. Do not drop out of HS and do not do drugs. 


By continuing to bail people out is going to do nothing but make the situation worse. When you progressives realize this then the country will be a great deal better off. 

EdUktr
EdUktr

@PoliticalOutsider

You are the bonehead. But that can't be news to you. And do take note of screen names in future.

honested
honested

@td1234 @honested 

BS tiny dog.

What does the manner in which children are born have to do with deterioration and inadequate funding for repair of infrastructure?

Your hollow, failed, wrong-wing ideological arguments have no basis in fact?

Where in America has wrong wing ideology produced progress? I can only look to the most glaringly failed experiment (Kansas) to see where it is time to cease with pretending and get to steppin on fixing the mess created by entertaining the whim of people with no concept of appropriate governance.

Smear yourself with ashes and cower awaiting the dawn, you lose.

td1234
td1234

@honested


"What does the manner in which children are born have to do with deterioration and inadequate funding for repair of infrastructure?"


When you have to divert money from basic infrastructure to make transfer payments on the philosophy of being fair then you do not have enough revenue to get the job done. 

td1234
td1234

@honested Conservative fiscal policy rooted in a Christian value system is what made the country as great as it is today. When progressives/socialist came into the picture in a major way with their policies is when we started losing ground. 

honested
honested

@td1234 @honested 

We have 'diverted' money intended for infrastructure maintenance to 'Wars of Choice' since 2002. 

THAT is the problem with appropriate funding to protect the needs of American Citizens.

Ignore the facts at your peril, but the facts keep sucking cash out of MY and EVERY American's pocket.

honested
honested

@td1234 @honested 

I don't care if it is rooted in daouism, it DOESN'T WORK!

Watch "Animal House" again and look at the scene where Kevin Bacon is about to be trampled by angry spectators as he howls "All is well!", that is where your failed ideology is today.

There is no Progressive/Socialist in Congress today with the exception of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Keith Ellison. Three people. How much are they 'corrupting' the American Government?

td1234
td1234

@honested @td1234 Almost $1 trillion per year on means tested programs and more than we spend on the military makes your claim bogus. 


No matter what you say a nation can not survive when the bottom 20% of the nation is being totally supported by the government. 

honested
honested

@td1234 @honested 

I'm waiting tiny dog, ONE example in the last 10 years where your ideology has produced the promised results.

Hurry, because putting in my 12 hours today wiped me out and I don't have time to trifle with dolts this evening.

honested
honested

@td1234 @honested 

Howsabout 3 trillion dollars in spending to rebuild the damage done in a foreign country where we should never have been involved in a conflict?

'Means tested' programs are the only way to ensure that only those who NEED government assistance receive it. Do you really think that I should spend tax money to provide beach renourishment on 'the spit' on Sea Island, if so, you are far more full of crap than even I suspected.

The size of the American population and the damage done to the economy produce the obvious result of NEED. Raise the taxes so all services are funded and 'poof' the need diminishes. For more clear evidence, see 'California 2012-2014'.

But back to the point. Give me ONE example where your ideologically driven nonsense has WORKED.