DALLAS -- President Trump said Monday that he's open to the idea of an increase in the gas tax to provide $200 billion of direct federal funding in his proposed $1 trillion infrastructure renewal program.
Trump said he would agree to consider the raising federal gasoline and diesel taxes for the first time since 1993 because commercial trucking interests, which pay half of the fuel taxes that go into the Highway Trust Fund, are pushing for it.
“It’s something that I would certainly consider, ” Trump said in an interview with Bloomberg News in the Oval Office.
The higher tax would be justified only “if we earmarked money toward the highways,” Trump said.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said at a news briefing the same day that the president was told that inadequate transportation infrastructure is costing truckers billions of dollars a year in lost time and extra fuel expenses.
"He has an open mind," Spicer said.
Several proposals for an increase in the gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon and the diesel tax of 24.4 cents have been floated in Congress in recent years, but none have been seriously considered.
Raising the gasoline tax is one of the best ways to fund an infrastructure renewal program and President Trump should receive credit for bringing it up, said Richard LeFrak, Trump’s main infrastructure adviser.
“That took a lot of political courage. It’s a hard sell but we have a crumbling infrastructure,” he said during an interview Monday afternoon on CNBC. “The money has to be spent and the users should have some responsibility for paying for it.”
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said during the same interview that an infrastructure proposal would be unveiled “pretty soon.” The plan will include $200 billion of new direct federal funding to stimulate up to $1 trillion of infrastructure spending over the next 10 years, she said.
The trucking industry loses nearly $50 billion a year to congestion, said Chris Spears, president of the American Trucking Association.
“That is unacceptable,” he said. “We must unclog our arteries and highways and make our infrastructure safer and more efficient by investing in our roads and bridges. The cost of doing nothing is more expensive than a higher fuel tax."
A gasoline tax increase is long overdue, said Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.
“The gas tax is a fair and simple user fee that finances our nation's vital infrastructure system. We applaud President Trump for putting this option on the table,” Slater said. “Our nation's roads and bridges have suffered as Congress failed to ensure the gas tax kept pace with the cost of inflation, and increased vehicle fuel efficiency.”