White House stops short of endorsing fuel tax increase to fund transportation

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 1/6/2015

President Obama’s White House says it will listen to proposals from Congress that would increase fuel taxes to pay for transportation, but the administration stopped short of endorsing the measure. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answered press questions about fuel taxes and other funding proposals on Monday, Jan. 5.

During his daily press briefing in Washington, D.C., Earnest was asked about a renewed interest in fuel taxes as a long-term funding measure spurred on by a recent drop in fuel and oil prices.

“Well, it’s not something that we have proposed, and that’s been our policy,” Earnest said, according to a White House transcript.

“We have put forward our own very specific proposal for how we believe we can make the investment that’s needed in infrastructure in this country … closing loopholes that only benefit wealthy and well-connected corporations, and using the revenue from closing those loopholes to investing in badly needed infrastructure upgrades.”

Earnest said the administration would at least entertain bipartisan proposals from Congress on the issue.

“There are some in Congress that have different ideas, including raising the gas tax. That’s certainly something that we’ll take a look at it, but it’s not something that we have considered from here,” Earnest said.

U.S. Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., are promoting a bipartisan bill that would increase fuel taxes by 12 cents a gallon over two years.

And earlier this week, the incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said he would be open to discussions about fuel taxes in the committee.

The U.S. House of Representatives is not as open to increasing fuel taxes, however.

In late December 2014, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., told reporters that increasing fuel taxes would be “off the table” in the new Congress and that Republican leadership prefers tax reform measures to fund infrastructure.

See related story:
New Congress, new debate over taxes and highway funding

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