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Rep. Bobby Scott in conversation with Mike Allen on the Axios stage. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Last Thursday, Axios Co-founder Mike Allen hosted a series of one-on-one conversations on hometown issues, including affordable housing, infrastructure and education.

Rep. Bobby Scott, Virginia
  • On the relationship between student debt and the housing market: "Student debt is a major problem...You can’t sell a house to a young person because they already have a mortgage. You're reluctant to start a family because you get to people with significant debt... It is a financial burden that is life-altering."
  • On fixing the student loan forgiveness system: "Many of those programs are in total disarray... the public service loan forgiveness plan started about 10 years ago and people are just coming up to 10 years and applying for their discharge. And the Department of Education is denying 99 percent...The program has a problem and we need to fix it."
Ray LaHood, Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation
Former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood discussed the impact of the bipartisan gas tax in Illinois, as well as the need for more investment in infrastructure at the federal level.

  • On the bipartisan decision to raise the gas tax in Illinois: "There are no Republican roads. There are no Republican bridges. There are no Democratic roads or Democratic bridges. Infrastructure has always been bipartisan. And so I'm proud of what happened in Illinois."
  • On raising the gas tax at the federal level: "The Senate will never do that unless [President] Trump sends a signal. If Trump sends a signal...We'd have a bill in Washington. That's what happened in Illinois...That could happen here with leadership from the White House, and it would happen very quickly."
  • On the state of American infrastructure: "America is one big pothole...our infrastructure has been decimated.”
Susanne Slater, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C.
Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C.'s CEO Susanne Slater. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Susanne Slater, Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C.'s CEO, highlighted the role of local leadership in critical decision-making around affordable housing and development.

  • On the impact of city and state-level leaders: "The leadership of the local jurisdiction can make all the difference in the world. The policy priorities of a mayor, for example, influence how developers build."
  • On gentrification in Washington, D.C.: "It’s one of the most gentrifying cities in the country...you want a booming economy...you are displacing small businesses and you are making housing virtually unaffordable...the economic engine has its costs and Habitat [for Humanity] is trying to catch the people before areas gentrify."
Nick Johnston, Editor-in-Chief, Axios
Axios Editor-in-Chief Nick Johnston in conversation with Axios' Mike Allen. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Axios Editor-in-Chief Nick Johnston reflected on the themes of the year's Hometown Tour and discussed the issues that engage people outside of the Washington, D.C. media bubble.

  • On the topics that matter around the country: "Let's talk about these broader trends that are really important: How are people gonna be able to afford to live? How are they going to get from one place in the community to another? And how are we training a workforce for the 21st century, which uniformly folks say we're not?"
  • On scaling up successful community-level programs: "How can we get these good ideas and get Congress to act to create a much broader national infrastructure instead of doing this piecemeal? "

Thank you Wells Fargo for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.

House will transmit article of impeachment to Senate on Monday, Schumer says

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the House will deliver the article of impeachment against former President Trump for "incitement of insurrection" on Monday.

Why it matters: The Senate is required to begin the impeachment trial at 1pm the day after the article is transmitted.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Private equity bets on delayed tax reform in Biden administration

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In normal times, private equity would be nervous about Democratic Party control of both the White House and Congress. But in pandemic-consumed 2021, the industry seems sanguine.

Driving the news: Industry executives and lobbyists paid very close attention to Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen's confirmation hearings this week, and came away convinced that tax reform isn't on the near-term agenda.