(CNSNews.com) – President Donald Trump, in an interview with Bloomberg news on Monday, indicated he would consider raising the federal fuel tax to pay for his infrastructure plan.
The truckers came to see me. And I have very good relationships with the truckers. I have one friend who’s a big trucker and he’s -- he’s like -- said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ you know, with the roads -- you’ve heard this story -- with the roads, and his trucks are all being destroyed, and he’s going to start buying cheap equipment now. Yeah, the roads are in bad shape.
But I’ve -- I’ve -- had the truckers come to see me, that if we earmarked money toward the highways that they would -- that they would not mind a tax -- you know, gas tax or some form of tax.
So I haven’t -- I haven’t made a commitment. But they would like it, because they say the roads are in such bad condition.
“Can I report that you’re open to raising the gas tax? Would that be fair?” the reporter asked Trump.
“The truckers have said that they want me to do something, as long as that money is earmarked to highways…You could say that I had that meeting,” the president responded.
“Well, it’s something that I would certainly consider, that -- because they’ve asked me to consider it.”
Trump said he’s “totally open” to a trillion dollar infrastructure bill, and he’s “in agreement” with Democrats on the need for such a bill.
Later, at the White House briefing, spokesman Sean Spicer was asked about Trump’s apparent willingness to raise the federal fuel tax:
“What the president said during that interview was that folks from the industry had come to him and expressed to him how the deteriorating roads were affecting their ability to deliver goods and services throughout this country, and that they had expressed a willingness to see something like that as a way to help pay for and repair the -- the roads and bridges, and that -- he said that he, out of respect, would definitely listen to them and consider it,” Spicer said.
A reporter asked Spicer why the administration thinks Republicans would support such an idea:
“I think you're missing the -- the -- he -- he did not express support for it,” Spicer responded. “He expressed that a group that had met with him expressed support with it and that he, out of respect, would consider their request. That's it. There was no endorsement of it or no support of it.
“He was just relaying what another industry group had shared with him about how to pay for the roads and bridges that need to be repaired, and the impact that deteriorating roads and bridges are having on their ability to operate and to deliver goods and services, and, frankly, the cost that it is having on -- on their trucks, on their infrastructure.”
Spicer added that people are always asking the president to consider one policy or another: “And he has an open mind,” Spicer said. “And I think that’s, frankly, what the president was doing.”
The federal tax on gasoline (18.4 cents a gallon) and on diesel fuel (24.4 cents/gallon) was last raised in 1993.
At an April 4 hearing, the head of a U.S. trucking company told a Senate panel it's time to raise the federal fuel tax and index it to inflation.
"We support federal investment in highways through, primarily, user fees on the beneficiaries of the system," Derek J. Leathers, the president and CEO of Werner Enterprises, a major trucking business, told a Senate Commerce subcommittee.
Leathers said the fuel tax is the "most efficient revenue source, and increasing it will produce no additional collection costs and minimal evasion."
But many Americans, including Trump voters, are unlikely to embrace a hike in the gasoline tax.