‘Jaws drop’ as Trump floats gasoline tax hike

Source: Nick Sobczyk and Geof Koss, E&E News reporters • Posted: Thursday, February 15, 2018

President Trump yesterday told lawmakers he wants to raise the gasoline tax by 25 cents a gallon to help pay for his infrastructure plan, startling Republicans and rejecting the stance of his own administration.

“He said we should raise the gas, diesel tax by 25 cents a gallon,” according to Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.). “He kept coming back to that and saying that these things are worth having, they’re worth paying for.”

Carper was at the White House with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to discuss the administration’s recently released infrastructure proposal.

Other attendees included EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) from the Commerce Committee, and House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

Trump’s idea mirrors a proposal floated last month by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which suggested raising the user fee — which hasn’t seen a hike since 1993 — by 25 cents over five years.

But it also goes against the posture of his own administration and the Republican lawmakers who will be tasked with turning his proposal into legislation.

Just yesterday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the administration does not officially have a stance on raising the gas tax.

“The president has not declared anything out of bounds, so everything is on the table,” she told reporters.

But, Chao added, “the gas tax has an adverse impact, a very regressive impact on the most vulnerable within our society.”

The idea has gained traction in some wings of the GOP, notably with House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania. And it will likely be on the periphery of the discussion about infrastructure, with many on Capitol Hill still wondering how to pay for it.

But it’s unlikely to go far. Other Republicans who will be heavily involved with shaping the bill — like Barrasso and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) — have flatly rejected a user fee hike.

“I watched my Republican colleagues around the table, and I saw one or two jaws drop,” Carper said of the president’s comments. “It was, I’m sure, surprising.”