When it was confirmed that the Republicans would be taking over the US Senate after November’s historic election many of us, fueled by a potent combination of conservative activism and Obama administration incompetence, were expecting big things.

One of the items on the “Wish List” was tax reform. As the old adage goes: Be careful what you wish for… you just might get it.

Even before formally taking charge of the US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Senator John Thune (R-SD) weighed the option of solving our infrastructure problems with…a tax hike!  When FNC’s Chris Wallace queried Thune about raising gas taxes, his response was astonishing.

The incoming Republican leader of the Senate Transportation Committee said Sunday an increase is up for consideration, as “we have to look at all the options.”

“I don’t think we take anything off the table at this point,” John Thune said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Prices at the pump are at the lowest point in years — the nationwide average has tumbled more than a dollar in the last year, reaching $2.20 on Monday.

That’s given drivers significant relief at the same time as the federal highway fund continues to face huge shortages. Thune said the fund is looking at “about a $100 billion shortfall.”

The full segment is here, and the pertinent exchange starts at 9:50.

Translation for those who don’t speak politicoese: He would “prefer” not to do it does not mean he “absolutely won’t” do it.

Does it ever occur to anyone in Washington, D.C. to review current spending to see where funds may be diverted to something useful like infrastructure? Thune may want to chat with former Senator Tom Coburn, who suggests looking at the $700 million spent on cybersecurity for government sites, which has not been effective.

U.S. Government agencies have been frequent victims of cyber attacks in the last year. Attacks – some attributed to foreign governments – have targeted everything from The White House to the Office of Personnel Management to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Coburn recommended a variety of measures to improve Homeland Security’s management of its responsibilities vis-a-vis cyberspace. Among them: streamlining Congressional oversight of the Department so that it can be managed more holistically.

Alternatively, perhaps it is time to revisit who should be in charge of that infrastructure? Funding from road repair comes from the gasoline tax. Between the fracking success of North Dakota and Saudi market manipulations, gas prices have plunged — as have tax revenues.

A thoughtful piece on Heritage.com from Matthew Grinney and Emily Goff offers some fresh ideas for Thune to consider.

  • Eliminate transportation alternatives and other diversions, such as mass transit, from the federal highway program. These activities are of local, not federal, concern and do little if anything to reduce traffic congestion.
  • Adhere to the division of powers enshrined in the Constitution. The federal government should focus solely on national transportation issues, while state and local governments should have authority over local activities, such as mass transit and most highways, roads, and bridges, as well as bicycle paths, sidewalks, and all other transportation alternatives.
  • Give state and local governments more control and flexibility over most highway funding and decision making. Transportation decisions should be brought closer to the citizens because state and local governments know much better than Washington what their priorities are. Free from burdensome mandates and spending restrictions, states could plan, finance, and build the kind of surface transportation that best addresses the specific problems in their communities, working with the private sector when appropriate.

Dawn Wildman, co-founder of the SoCal Tax Revolt Coalition, has a theory about Thune’s statements: “There are two likely reasons Senator Thune made the statement he did: He wanted to be a moderate voice of reason or he was floating a trial balloon. We are encouraging everyone who was calling to complain about John Boehner’s reelection to the Speaker’s position to give Thune a call.”

Wildman notes that the new California gas tax hike, done in the name of global warming, is so unpopular that citizens are organizing to get a repeal measure on the ballot.

If this was a trial balloon, it’s full of lead.