Republican Commerce Committee Chair Won’t Rule Out Gas-Tax Hike

By Ali Meyer | January 6, 2015 | 1:06pm EST

( -- Incoming Republican Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) will not rule out a gas-tax hike as a means to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, according to his press office and his own comments on Fox News.

On Jan. 4, on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Senator Thune, “One of the big items on your agenda is the fact that you have to find a way to finance the transportation bill, which would pay for upkeep of our highways and the public transit system. With gas prices now under $2.50 a gallon, would you favor increasing the gas tax?”

“Well, I don’t favor increasing any tax, Chris, but I think we have to look at all the options,” said Thune. “We obviously have a big delta we have to meet. The highway bill expires at the end of May and there’s about a hundred billion shortfall of what it would take to fund the highway trust fund at the current level of operation.”

“So, obviously, we’ve got to deal with it here,” Thune said. “And I think there’s a number of ways you could deal with that, and those discussions continue. I think we’ll get to a resolution on that, but it is important we fund infrastructure, and our committee deals with that, as well as planes, trains and automobiles, all those issues.”

In this Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014 photo, gas station prices are posted for passing motorists in Augusta, Ga. The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration predicts in its most recent short-term energy outlook, released Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, that drivers will pay $2.94 per gallon on average in 2015, 45 cents lower than this year. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Wallace continued, “Senator Corker [R-Tenn.] and others have suggested a 12-cent-per-gallon increase in the gas tax over the next two years. You certainly sound like you’re not ruling that out?”

“Well, Bob Corker has got a proposal out there,” said Thune. “There are others who have suggestions as well. We appreciate the fact that we’ve got solutions that are being future-forward. I don’t think we take anything off the table at this point.”

Senate Budget Committee member Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who wants to raise gasoline taxes 12 cents per gallon. (AP Photo)

“I think it’s important to recognize that we have a problem, an issue that we need a solution for, and we need to look at all the possible ways out there in which we can address the challenge and address the problem,” said Thune. “But that’s one proposal that’s out there and Bob Corker has been, you know, taken a strong stand on that issue.” contacted Senator Thune’s press office to ask again whether the senator would rule out an increase in the gas tax as a means to replenish the Highway Trust Fund. His office did not rule it out but repeated the comment above from Fox News.

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