President Donald Trump signaled support for a 25-cent gas tax increase to help pay for infrastructure at a meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday, a source in the room told POLITICO.
Trump’s support, though not confirmed by the White House, represents a stark departure from recent administrations and congressional leaders that have tip-toed around the issue because raising the gas tax is considered politically dangerous.
It’s also a surprising turn from Trump, considering that most believed the best chance to hike the gas tax with the least amount of political pain was as part of the tax overhaul, H.R. 1 (115), whose ship has now sailed — and also because the splashy infrastructure plan the administration rolled out two days ago contained no mention of such a thing.
Trump told members he would lead on promoting a 25-cent hike to the federal levy, the source said. A second source familiar the meeting said Trump backed the concept.
If Trump follows through on that promise, it could mean billions of dollars in new revenue for infrastructure and help solve a problem that has bedeviled policymakers for at least a decade: The gas tax, which pays for most federal surface transportation spending, has not been keeping pace with needs. But policymakers have not had the political will to raise the gas tax or find another source of revenues, leaving an increasing number of states to raise their own gas taxes to compensate.
The 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993. A 25-cent hike phased in over five years would generate an additional $375 billion over the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Many Democrats in Congress, especially transportation boosters, will cheer the news. But expect the fiscally conservative wing of the Republican Party — and its outside groups such as Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity and others — to mobilize stiff opposition to anything that would bump the gas tax up.
The White House refused to comment on the meeting, but noted Trump has said "everything is on the table" when it comes to his infrastructure package.
"The gas tax has its pros and cons, and that’s why the president is leading a thoughtful discussion on the right way to solve our nation’s infrastructure problems," the official said.
Andrew Restuccia contributed to this report.