Shortly after releasing his infrastructure plan, President Trump held a meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday to discuss details. According to one senator at the meeting, Trump threw out the idea of increasing fuel taxes by 25 cents, the same proposal made by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., acknowledged that Trump had referred to a fuel tax increase and returned to the idea several times throughout the meeting. Sen. Carper provided the following statement:
“To my surprise, President Trump, in our meeting yesterday, offered his support for raising the gas and diesel tax by 25 cents a gallon and dedicating that money to improve our roads, highways and bridges. I explained to the president what I have proposed for years now – raising the gas and diesel tax four cents per year over four years, then indexing it thereafter. President Trump came back to the idea of a 25 cent increase several times throughout the meeting. While there are a number of issues on which President Trump and I disagree, we agree that things worth having are worth paying for, and the president even offered to help provide the leadership necessary so that we could do something that has proven difficult in the past.”
However, at least one senator present disagrees with the assessment that Trump endorses a fuel tax increase. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., told CNN that is not exactly how the idea was expressed.
"He was not advocating that. He was looking at all the options," Inhofe said. "All he said was we need to do something and that is still on the table."
Inhofe’s take on the conversation lines up with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s statements during a White House news conference on Tuesday, saying that Trump “has not declared anything out of bounds, so everything is on the table.”
“The gas tax, like many of the other pay-fors that are being discussed, is not ideal,” Sec. Chao said. “There are pros and cons.”
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., also attended Wednesday’s meeting with Trump. Sen. Barrasso provided Land Line with the following statement:
“First and foremost, infrastructure spending should be done in a fiscally responsible way and not add to the deficit. Speaking for myself, I oppose raising the federal gas tax. The gas tax isn’t a pure user-fee. Not everyone who uses the roads today pays the tax and not all of the money collected goes toward fixing America’s aging roads and bridges.”
Fuel tax increases are not wildly popular with conservatives. In January, political advocacy groups Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to oppose any increase in the federal fuel tax. Both groups are funded by the Koch brothers.
“Efforts to improve our nation’s infrastructure should focus on maximizing taxpayer dollars by targeting priorities such as roads and bridges, eliminating wasteful spending, removing regulatory barriers that delay projects and drive up costs, and ensuring there is proper oversight and accountability,” the letter says. “Increasing the federal gas tax to fund new infrastructure projects would be the wrong approach.”
The federal gas tax was introduced in 1932 with a 1-cent per gallon tax. Currently, the federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents, which was established in 1993. The last gas tax increase 25 years ago did not include language that would adjust the tax to inflation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has proposed a gas tax increase from 18.4 cents to 43.4 cents
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association believes the fuel tax is the most equitable way to generate revenue.
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