White House still eyeing gas tax hike to pay for infrastructure plan

White House still eyeing gas tax hike to pay for infrastructure plan
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The White House is still considering raising the federal gasoline tax to pay for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's top adviser on Asia to serve as deputy national security adviser United Auto Workers strike against GM poised to head into eighth day Trump doubles down on call to investigate Biden after whistleblower complaint: 'That's the real story' MORE’s $1 trillion infrastructure package, despite resistance from Republicans, according to the Republican chairman of a House subcommittee.

The administration, which is preparing to unveil its long-awaited infrastructure proposal on Capitol Hill next month, has been scrambling to identify potential offsets for the massive rebuilding effort. President Trump met with Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties MORE (R-Pa.) and other key transportation leaders in the Oval Office this week to discuss the infrastructure plan.

One funding idea that has been floated by the White House is raising the federal fuel tax — a politically risky move that hasn’t been done in more than 20 years. Influential conservative groups and many Republicans remain staunchly opposed to any increase.

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But Rep. Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesTrump administration to repeal waterway protections Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties Acting FAA chief defends agency's Boeing 737 Max safety certification MORE (R-Mo.), who began trading ideas with the White House last month about the infrastructure plan, said that a gas tax increase is still on the table.

“The administration is looking at a fuel tax,” Graves, chairman of the Transportation panel's Subcommittee on Highway and Transit, told The Hill this week. “But I’d like to pivot toward [vehicles miles traveled], at least in the commercial sector.”

“To be quite honest, it’s going to be quite hard to move [a gas tax increase] in the House,” Graves added.

The comments underscore the challenge facing the Trump administration. While there is wide consensus about the need to upgrade U.S. roads, bridges and other public works, there is far less agreement over how to pay for it.

Further complicating matters is that the GOP tax plan that could pass Congress next week will use up one of the other potential infrastructure offsets — offshore tax reform.

Even though raising the gas tax is unpopular with Republicans, the idea has strong support among Democrats and could be a way to bring them to the table in the infrastructure debate.

The Highway Trust Fund, which provides money for road construction and other transportation projects across the country, is financed by a federal fuel tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel. The taxes have been frozen since 1993.

A hike in the tax would help fix the ailing trust fund, which is due to run out of money in 2020.

Trump policy adviser D.J. Gribbin signaled this week that the rebuilding plan could address the Highway Trust Fund, in order "to make sure we don't end this [infrastructure] debate and still have a 2020 issue," Gribbin said at an infrastructure event hosted by the Hudson Institute.