Dem lawmaker calls for gas tax increase to help pay for infrastructure package

Rep. Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasPelosi-backed group funding ads for vulnerable Democrats amid impeachment inquiry Lawmakers beat reporters in annual spelling bee competition The Hill's Morning Report - US coastline readies for Hurricane Dorian to make landfall MORE (D-N.H.), who serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is calling for a plan that would tax drivers based on how many miles their vehicles travel, saying it could help pay for a proposed bipartisan infrastructure package.

"I think longer term — in terms of funding our roads and bridges, we all agree that vehicle miles travel is a great way to look for revenue, we’re all driving more fuel-efficient vehicles and so the gas tax has less and less purchasing power," Pappas told Hill.TV, noting that a similar plan has already been put forth by House Transportation Committee ranking member Rep. Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesDemocratic lawmaker asks for probe of reports Chao favored Kentucky officials Trump administration to repeal waterway protections Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties MORE (R-Mo.). 

“I think that’s one place we can look,” he added.

The freshman Democrat suggested that some voters might even favor such an increase, citing previous state-level support for gas taxes. 

“Voters across the country in particular states have supported an increase when they can actually see projects getting done around them, when they see shorter commutes,” he said.

Several states, including California and South Carolina, have increased gas taxes over the last few years to raise funds to support infrastructure maintenance and upgrades.

In other states, like Michigan, hiking gas taxes to fix roads and bridges has received some pushback from state lawmakers.

Pappas’s comments come after Democratic leaders and President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE reached a major deal to move forward on a $2 trillion infrastructure package, despite rising tensions over congressional investigations into the White House.

Both House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump knocks testimony from 'Never Trumpers' at Louisiana rally Jordan calls Pelosi accusing Trump of bribery 'ridiculous' USMCA deal close, but not 'imminent,' Democrats say MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Schumer blocks drug pricing measure during Senate fight, seeking larger action MORE (D-N.Y.) expressed optimism following Monday's meeting.

“It was a very constructive meeting,” Schumer told reporters. “It’s clear that both the White House and all of us want to get something done on infrastructure in a big and bold way.”

But lawmakers will have find a way to foot the bill. Trump and Democratic leaders are expected to meet again in three weeks to discuss funding for the ambitious new plan.

Schumer said he would not support raising the gas tax unless Republicans consider allocating funds for the plan by reducing the 2017 tax overhaul, something which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already declared would be a “non-starter.”

Pappas acknowledged the challenge ahead, but expressed hope.

“I think it’s an important start and we’ve got critical work to do on the committee — the devil’s going to be in the details of how we can actually stitch together a package that’s going to work, that’s going to take care of this country’s needs,” he said.

—Tess Bonn