A bipartisan group of centrist House lawmakers on Friday proposed raising the gas tax as one possible way to pay for a large-scale infrastructure spending package.
In a new report, the 58-member House Problem Solvers Caucus proposes indexing fuel taxes to inflation, highway construction costs, fuel economy standards or some combination of the three. The report also lays out a number of other revenue-raising options, including a tax on vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which would raise revenue from drivers of electric vehicles as well.
Other funding ideas in the report include stepped-up Internal Revenue Service enforcement to cut down on tax avoidance, a national infrastructure bank, annual registration fees for electric vehicles and user fees for freight trucks.
A gas tax hike still looks unlikely: Congress hasn’t raised the gas tax of 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993 — and it doesn’t appear likely to do so now. A number of key parties in the infrastructure debate, including President Joe Biden, have already come out against the idea, arguing that it would disproportionately hit lower-income Americans.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki earlier this month said that even a large increase in the gas tax would only cover a fraction of the infrastructure spending needed and that Biden “does not believe that paying for this historic investment in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and creating millions of jobs should be on the backs of Americans.” Biden has pledged not to raise taxes on people making under $400,000 a year and has proposed raising corporate taxes to help pay for his infrastructure proposals.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) this week told reporters he was opposed to a gas tax hike. "Hell no, don't raise them," he said on Wednesday. "I got people that have to drive a long way to make a living. That just makes it harder on the working person. That's not the way to do it."
Senate Republicans who outlined their own $568 infrastructure plan Thursday also don’t support raising the gas tax.
And, in an indication of just how sensitive the topic is, the Problem Solvers Caucus itself emphasized Friday that it hadn’t endorsed a gas tax increase, or any particular revenue-raising ideas, and had only laid out some options. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), a leader of the group, added that he personally is against raising the gas tax. “Instead, I support pay-for measures like closing the $1-trillion-a-year tax gap, which goes after tax cheats, and boosting public-private partnerships,” he tweeted.