Fri, Jan 13, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Ex-Taiwanese transportation pick backs rebuilding

Bloomberg

US president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head transportation policy delivered a strong endorsement at her confirmation hearing of his proposal to seek private investment funding for a massive infrastructure building program based on a “bold new vision.”

Elaine Chao (趙小蘭), an immigrant from Taiwan who rose to become a US Cabinet secretary in a previous Republican administration and is now being considered for secretary of transportation, said deteriorating roads and other networks are jeopardizing the economy.

“I look forward to working with you to rebuild, refurbish and revitalize America’s infrastructure, so our economy can continue to grow, create good paying jobs for America’s working families and enhance our quality of life,” Chao said at the hearing on Wednesday.

While she stopped short of specifics such as how large the building program would be, she made clear she endorses Trump’s vision of relying on private money to pay for it so it will not increase the deficit.

Such so-called public-private partnerships typically rely on tolls or fees for new roadways, bridges and tunnels, generating revenue to allow investors to make a profit. Investors can also receive tax breaks.

“As we work together to develop the details of President Trump’s infrastructure plan, it is important to note the significant difference between traditional program funding and other innovative financing tools, such as public-private partnerships,” she said. “In order to take full advantage of the estimated trillions in capital that equity firms, pension funds and endowments can invest, these partnerships must be incentivized with a bold new vision.”

Chao received an unusual introduction, signaling that she will likely face one of the easiest confirmations of any Trump nominee.

Her husband, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, made a rare appearance at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to recommend her.

Quoting another former majority leader, Bob Dole, whose wife, Elizabeth Dole, served as US secretary of transportation, McConnell said: “I feel a little bit like [US soldier and spy during the American Revolutionary War] Nathan Hale. I regret that I have but one wife to give for my country.”

Moments later, in her own introductory remarks, Chao said: “I will be working to lock in the majority leader’s support tonight over dinner.”

Trump has promised to improve roads, bridges, airports, schools, electrical grids and other infrastructure to meet needs and boost the economy. Some of those areas are outside the Transportation Department’s purview.

Chao, 63, was born in Taiwan and moved to the US at age eight, three years after her father moved there to establish a maritime shipping company.

She received an MBA from Harvard University and has held a number of government posts, including secretary of labor in the administration of former US president George W. Bush.

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