GOP chairman: Republicans’ reactions ‘mixed’ on gas tax increase
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (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 Chao and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn.
“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 Trump 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 Thune (R-S.D.) moderated the working session, which also included Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.