WASHINGTON – Gov. Mitch Daniels said Thursday he will not be a candidate for transportation secretary if Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is elected in November.
“The answer to that is no,” Daniels told reporters during a roundtable discussion on transportation sponsored by the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank.
But he said if there is a new administration, it should stress the importance to the American economy of investing in transportation infrastructure.
“I hope it is someone who would like to go make that case and maybe somebody that is able to bring about a little of this elusive compromise and common purpose that we are all looking for in town.
“If there’s only one thing we all ought to be able to agree on, I think this is it,” he said about repairing and maintaining roads and bridges.
Daniels was in the nation’s capital in part to attend the unveiling of a portrait of former President George W. Bush at the White House. Daniels was White House budget director in Bush’s first term.
Daniels said he also met with members of Congress on Thursday – including House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla. – to express his opposition to a Senate proposal to cut federal funds to states that have public-private highway deals, such as the 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road.
“This is a state that gets screwed every year anyway,” Daniels said about the federal highway funding formula, which has returned to Indiana no more than 92 cents for every dollar the state collects in federal gasoline taxes.
“Now they (would) reduce it for the sin of addressing the infrastructure crisis,” he said at the National Press Club.
“We are in a record building boom” because of the $4 billion toll-road lease, Daniels said. “... You can’t go 10 miles in our state right now without running into a road grader or a major project.”
Daniels also said, “It is a continuing source of interest to me and, frankly, disappointment, that this whole business of infrastructure has not become a place, if not the only place, the two parties can find a way to cooperate.”
He said officials of various political persuasions “ought to see value in first-rate public infrastructure.”
For more on this story, see Thursday’s print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit www.journalgazette.net after 3 a.m. Thursday.