Trump transportation secretary hedges on massive new infrastructure injection

Story highlights

  • Trump has pledged to invest $1 trillion in US roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects
  • Chao in a questionnaire also listed some of her financial investments

(CNN)President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Department of Transportation doesn't seem enthusiastic about Trump's idea of a massive infrastructure investment.

Either that, or Elaine Chao is just being cautious.
Chao, the former labor secretary under President George W. Bush, stressed in a questionnaire she filed with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation -- which will vote on her nomination -- the need to help streamline infrastructure projects by cutting red tape. She also hopes to help the Department of Transportation get the most out of every dollar of spending and said she will look to new technologies to improve US infrastructure.
Trump has pledged to invest $1 trillion in US roads, bridges, waterways and other infrastructure projects over the next 10 years to improve the nation's ailing infrastructure and boost the economy.
Chao said a "culture of good stewardship on behalf of the American people" must be "a top priority" for the transportation agency, but she did not mention the need for a cash infusion to improve the nation's ailing infrastructure -- as her would-be boss repeatedly stressed on the campaign trail.
R.C. Hammond, a Trump transition team spokesman, said Chao "is completely aligned with the President-elect's plans to invest in America's infrastructure, and she understands the critical connection between our infrastructure and our competitiveness.
"The secretary fully supports the President-elect's call for investment, innovation and modernization of our nation's infrastructure. She, like the President-elect, believes this investment is vital to moving America's economy forward and to ensuring that all Americans are safe as they travel our roads, skies and rails," Hammond continued.
Chao has talked about improving the nation's infrastructure "with or without a new infusion of funds." But that plan has been met with skepticism by some Republicans, though Trump has sought to reassure fiscal hawks that his investments would be "revenue neutral."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is married to Chao, has voiced concern about Trump's lofty infrastructure spending plan, cautioning that he hopes to "avoid a trillion-dollar stimulus." Any new infrastructure spending would need to be approved by Congress.
On her questionnaire, which the Senate's commerce and transportation committee released online Tuesday evening, Chao stressed finding ways to "expedite the process of making repairs" and "decreasing the regulatory burdens."
Chao also listed some of her financial investments, board of directorships and listed any potential conflicts of interest.
She noted that she is "entitled to discounted airfare on Delta Airlines as a result of her service on the board of Northwest Airlines," which Delta acquired in 2008. Chao did not say whether she would continue to enjoy the discounted fair should she be confirmed as transportation secretary.
Hammond did not respond to a CNN question about Chao's relationship with Delta.
Chao is also one of 11 directors on the board of Vulcan Materials Company, which calls itself "the nation's largest producer of construction aggregates." Chao plans to leave that post should she be confirmed, but would get a stock payout in April 2018.
Chao will also get cash payments for the value of her stock in the industrial company Ingersoll-Rand, Wells Fargo bank and the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp media company beginning in January 2017, according to information Chao provided in the public questionnaire.
The value of her stock in those companies was not publicly disclosed.