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

Rep. Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasNew Hampshire Republicans advance map with substantially redrawn districts Chris Pappas launches reelection bid in New Hampshire Top House Democratic group launches six-figure ad campaign to sell infrastructure package 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 GravesCorporations seek to rebuild bridges with GOP objectors ahead of midterms GOP election objectors rake in corporate cash Airlines defend delays, cancellations amid scrutiny from Congress 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 TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul 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 PelosiHouse leaders unveil bill to boost chip industry, science competitiveness with China Pelosi says she will run for reelection in 2022 Hoyer says 'significant' version of Build Back Better will pass this year MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans 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