Peter DeFazio, the Democratic lawmaker heads toward the chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said Monday there will be no "political peril" if the federal gas tax is raised to fund infrastructure renewal projects in the country.
DeFazio, who will assume the chairmanship in January, told U.S. media that the past midterm elections "demonstrated there is not political peril in raising the gas tax if you show people that you' re going to help them get out of congestion, avoid potholes, avoid detours."
Both the Republicans and Democrats showed an enthusiasm for cooperation on improving America's aging roads, bridges and airports after the midterm elections, but they diverge on how those projects will be funded.
Incoming House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy expressed concern Thursday about reaching a bipartisan consensus on funding any proposal related to infrastructure. "That's going to be the real hang-up when it comes to infrastructure - how do we pay for it?" he told CNBC's "Squawk Box" program.
However, DeFazio reckoned that raising federal gas tax is feasible, and that there's a need to get President Donald Trump onboard. "The president, in my one meeting with him, advocated a substantial gas tax increase, so I think this is still something we can work on, and we're going to need the president, because there's a reluctance on the part of some in the Senate," he said.
Raising the federal gas tax has always been a fiercely debated topic on Capitol Hill as it will add burdens to middle- and working-class Americans. The current levy is 18.4 cents a gallon on retail gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel -- unchanged since 1993.
Gas and diesel taxes constitute a main source of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, which plays a major role in covering the nation's spending on highways and mass transit. Since the gas tax rate is not adjusted to inflation, the duty's diminishing purchasing power has been draining the fund as the years pass.
The Trump administration unveiled in February a 10-year, 200-billion-dollar federal funding for a grand infrastructure scheme worth 1.5 trillion dollars in total, which DeFazio said "doesn't sound sustainable."
"If we want to do what the Republicans did and pretend we' re paying for it, and just transfer the money into the trust fund, and bond it, you know, any way we can get the substantial increase in money that goes into the trust fund I'll support. But it's not real," he said. Enditem