Republicans are weighing whether to raise the federal gas tax. It’s an idea they are prone to hate, but they may need it to pay for President Trump’s infrastructure investment plan.
Supporters of the idea note that the tax hasn’t been raised since 1993 and have plenty of evidence that resistance to a hike is wearing down.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently called for the Trump administration and Congress to raise the gas tax by 25 cents per gallon to help pay for an infrastructure package, projecting it would generate more than $375 billion over a decade. For 25 years, the federal tax on gasoline has held steady at 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel. It is not indexed to inflation.
The Republican chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, prodded colleagues at the recent GOP retreat to consider setting aside years of opposition and raise the tax.
And perhaps most revealing, some of the most conservative House members who heard Shuster’s pitch are open to it.
That includes Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., an independent-minded conservative who drives an electric-powered Tesla, detests government waste, and is always liable to surprise.
“The gas tax is a pact with the public, if spent properly, that says when you buy gasoline, we charge you money and spend all of it on the roads and bridges you are driving,” Massie, a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told the Washington Examiner. “It’s more palatable to constituents. People are upset about the wasteful government spending they see in Washington, D.C. But generally, they are not upset about money spent on infrastructure. So, you have to consider those two things differently.”
But Massie and others acknowledge the risk for Republicans that comes with voting for a tax increase, especially after the party recently enacted legislation that reduces taxes for businesses and individuals.
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