GOP chairman: Republicans' reactions 'mixed' on gas tax increase

GOP chairman: Republicans' reactions 'mixed' on gas tax increase
© Greg Nash

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterLobbying world Crowley, Shuster moving to K Street Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch MORE (R-Pa.) on Thursday said he received a “mixed” reaction when he brought up the gas tax during an infrastructure meeting at the GOP retreat.

Shuster said the subject “was the elephant in the room” during a working session that included several lawmakers, Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ Taiwan’s President Tsai should be invited to address Congress White House announces reduced delegation to travel to Davos amid shutdown MORE and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn.

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“Look, nobody wants to raise taxes. Nobody wants to raise fees in this country,” Shuster told reporters at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

Shuster has long maintained that all options are on the table to contribute to an infrastructure overhaul, though he has also noted the gas tax hike’s unpopularity among Republicans.

Proponents of raising the levy argue doing so is necessary to keep the Highway Trust Fund afloat. Money from the 18.4-cent-per-gallon tax goes into the fund to pay for road projects, but that tax has not been raised since 1993, eroding the fund’s purchasing power over time.

But increasing the tax has received varied reviews from lawmakers in both parties, though industry groups and some members of Congress have rallied behind an effort to raise the fee.

Shuster on Thursday emphasized that any infrastructure package must have bipartisan support, conceding that the GOP majority may have to lose some Republican votes to get Democrats on board.

“First and foremost, it has to be bipartisan to get it through the Senate,” Shuster said. “And if we want to attract Democrats in the House, we probably lose some Republican votes.”

The Pennsylvania Republican’s comments come after President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE during his annual State of the Union address called on Congress to craft an infrastructure plan of “at least” $1.5 trillion to overhaul U.S. ports, bridges, highways, airports and other public works.

But the president offered few details on a proposal, which he said must streamline the permitting process and include public-private partnerships “where appropriate.”

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePolls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income Will Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall MORE (R-S.D.) moderated the working session, which also included Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal Dems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants MORE (R-Wyo.), who is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.