POLITICS
01/25/2018 07:14 pm ET

White House Open To Gas Tax Hike To Pay For Infrastructure Upgrades

But only if Congress agrees.

WASHINGTON ― Raising the gas tax to help finance infrastructure improvements isn’t off the table for the Trump administration, according to White House aide DJ Gribbin.

“We don’t support it. We don’t oppose it either,” Gribbin, who serves as the special assistant to the president for infrastructure policy, said Thursday at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting.

Trump last year said that as a funding source for his much-touted push to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, he would be open to increasing the federal gas tax for the first time since 1993. The Highway Trust Fund, which helps pay for the nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems, is primarily funded by the federal fuel tax. But the vast majority of Republican lawmakers, who control both houses of Congress, have opposed raising the levy.

Gribbin told dozens of U.S. mayors on Thursday that Trump’s long-delayed infrastructure proposal will include $200 billion in public spending, with the rest of the $1 trillion plan consisting of private tax incentives. But ways to finance the plan, as well as whether it should include more direct federal spending, will ultimately be left up to Congress, he said.

“We’re going to be open to conversations about increases beyond $200 billion (in federal dollars), but we’re not going to start on that front ― that’s a decision that needs to be made collectively between the House, the Senate, and the White House,” Gribbin said. He added that a list of Trump’s infrastructure principles will be shared with lawmakers on Capitol Hill a week or two after the president’s State of the Union address next week.

Trump said Wednesday at the White House that his proposal would result in about $1.7 trillion in overall investment over the next 10 years, larger than the $1 trillion figure he previously announced and that Gribbin discussed. Gribbin declined to comment when asked about the discrepancy. 

They’re proposing stuff without filling in the how Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D)

A draft document that listed principles of the White House infrastructure plan leaked earlier this week, but it lacked details on specific funding sources. The document also did not include information on how the the plan is supposed to achieve $1 trillion in new investment, especially given the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts to key infrastructure programs.

“They’re proposing stuff without filling in the how,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D), who is chairing a mayors’ conference task force on infrastructure, said. “But I appreciate at least it’s not opposition to some of the funding sources like the gas tax, and a willingness to go above and beyond” $200 billion in direct spending.”

Garcetti, a potential 2020 presidential candidate, also lamented that the Republican tax bill enacted late last year did not tap into the massive sums of cash corporations stowed overseas in order to upgrade U.S. roads, bridges, and other public works.

“That tax bill slowed down infrastructure and took away jobs from America, not the opposite,” Garcetti said.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) echoed Garcetti’s concerns about the lack of details in Trump’s infrastructure proposal. He added that he hoped the administration will not simply reshuffle funds from existing infrastructure programs like the Highway Trust Fund to pay for the plan.

“The speculation is that we’re going to end up cutting $1.69 for every $1.00 they’re going to invest,” Hancock said. “We’re going to have to sort that out.”

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