(CNN) – Several Republican presidential candidates said a tax hike to pay for fixing bridges and the nation’s infrastructure was not the answer in the wake of the deadly Minneapolis bridge collapse.
The comments came during a GOP presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, broadcast on ABC’s “This Week”.
Asked if he would support a gas tax increase to go towards repairs, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said, “There is a liberal Democratic assumption that if you raise taxes, you raise money. We should put more money into infrastructure. We should have agood program for doing it. But the kneejerk liberal Democratic reaction - raise taxes to get money - very often is a very big mistake.”
Giuliani said in New York City, he was able to raise more money for capital improvement projects through an income tax cut he said ultimately generated more revenues. He said they were able to cut the number of “poor bridges from 5 percent to 1.7 percent.”
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said “if you really want to make some money in
this country, really get some money so we can repair our infrastructure and build for the future, the biggest source of that is a growing American economy.”
He said a change of priorities is need for urgent bridge repairs, saying “we have to reorient how we spend our money.” Romney said in Massachusetts, “we found that we had 500 bridges, roughly, that were deemed structurally deficient. And so we changed how we focused our money. Instead of spending it to build new projects - the bridge to nowhere, new trophies for congressmen - we instead said, "Fix it first."
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckaee said the U.S. needed to out money into bridge and transportation improvements at home before giving money for projects in other countries. He said, “it's not necessarily that we raise a tax to fix what we ought to fix of this country. We're spending billions of dollars all over our country and around the world, but it may be time that we start spending some of those billions of dollars to deal with our own infrastructure.”
He said the Minnesota disaster and last month’s New York City underground explosion highlight a growing problem, saying, “it's not being talked about. And it's our bridges, our interstates, our sewer and water treatment systems. They're crumbling. They're old. We saw an 85-year-old steam pipe explode in the middle of Manhattan recently. And we have to start addressing building this country, not everybody else's.”
Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, said Congress shares blame for problems with the nation’s bridges and roads. “ We passed a $50 billion transportation bill that had $2 billion in pork barrel earmarked projects, “ he said, “ $233 million for a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, to an island with 50 people on it. Not one dime in those pork barrel projects was for inspection or repair of bridges.”
–CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk