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Top Dem wants to 'kidnap' tax foe Grover Norquist to help win new gas tax

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Transportation,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Taxes,Budgets and Deficits,Grover Norquist,Pennsylvania,Gas Prices

Maddened by the GOP's war on new taxes, a former chairman of the Democratic Party on Tuesday suggested that anti-tax champion Grover Norquist be kidnapped to quiet his activism and make it easier to pass a new gas tax.

Without more money to fix America’s roads, ports and airports, “our backs are against the wall,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the Democratic Party leader from 1999-2001. “What alternative to we have? I mean, kidnap Grover Norquist? What alternative do we have?” he said.

Rendell, speaking with former Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at a Bloomberg Government conference to discuss infrastructure, quickly added: “Grover, if you're listening, I was kidding.”

Norquist, president of the influential Americans for Tax Reform, is best known for getting lawmakers to sign a no-tax pledge, and his group works overtime to make sure lawmakers keep their promise. He is open to greater infrastructure spending, but only if money comes from other programs and not new taxes.

“If I might suggest an alternative to kidnapping me and raising taxes on the American people, Rendell should help ATR repeal costly federal labor mandates that inflate the cost of construction projects,” Norquist told Secrets. “Let’s repeal the Davis-Bacon Act and get rid of Project Labor Agreements which would free up $10 billion annually. You can build a lot of roads with that.”

But LaHood and Rendell were hearing none of that, blasting Republicans for being “wusses” on the tax and infrastructure issue.

LaHood, giving President Obama credit for pushing infrastructure improvements more than any other president, said, “I haven't heard anybody in [Republican] leadership talking about it.” Rendell said, “Nobody wants to spend money in this town. It's pathetic.” He called Pennsylvania's new gas tax “terrific.”

LaHood is a fan of an additional 10-cent tax indexed to inflation. Nothing else, he said, “is going to create the kind of money” needed. He noted that even former President Reagan, a foe of taxes, raised the gas tax to pay for better roads. “We need some other people in this with vision to step up,” he said of GOP leaders.

But at the conference, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Schuster indicated that taxes are dead, leading LaHood to suggest that the best time to address taxes and infrastructure spending might be after the midterm elections.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.