U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida was one of three no votes in committee on the nomination of Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation.
On Wednesday, the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved Buttigieg’s nomination on a 21-3 vote. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn joined Scott in opposing the nomination. All three are Republicans.
Buttigieg now awaits a full vote by the Senate to complete the nomination process and become the first openly gay person confirmed to a Cabinet seat. The 39-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana was joined at the committee hearing by his husband Chasten.
“Having my husband @Chasten by my side yesterday in a hearing room is something not seen before for a Cabinet nominee. And our hope is that it makes it easier for the next person to come along,” Buttigieg tweeted.
Scott did not make it easy on Buttigieg. Stating the Highway Trust Fund is going insolvent, Scott asked Buttigieg if he supported gas tax increases.
Buttigieg responded that “all options need to be on the table,” while carefully explaining different near-term and long-term solution models. Those scenarios involved general fund transfers, fees based on usage per mile and the pursuit of more electric vehicles.
In a tweet, Scott did not approve of Buttigieg’s openness to raising the gas tax to pay for what he characterized as the “government’s wasteful spending.”
“There is absolutely NO reason we should be placing that burden on taxpayers,” Scott tweeted.
The current federal fuel tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. In testimony before the committee Buittigeg noted the tax has not been increased since 1993 and has not been adjusted to inflation.
Florida is a top 10 state for fuel taxes with Tallahassee taking just over 42 cents per gallon. Meanwhile, more electric charging stations are being built and state transportation officials estimate there could be as many as 4.5 million electric vehicles on Florida roads by 2030.
“In the long term we need to bear in mind that as vehicles become more efficient and we pursue electrification sooner or later there will be questions about whether the gas tax can be effective at all,” Buttigieg told Scott.