Ryan refutes Shuster on potential federal gas tax increase

March 8, 2018

The transportation chairman had hoped for legislation to pass in a late-year lame duck session

House Speaker Paul Ryan this week was unequivocal regarding a potential increase to the federal gas tax to aid the funding of road and bridge development.

"Well, we’re not going to raise gas taxes so I don’t foresee that as a problem. We’re just not going to do that here," Ryan said on a phone call with the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, as reported by The Hill. "There are some people who are talking about that, but the last thing we want to do is pass historic tax relief in December and then undo that, so we are not going to raise gas taxes."

President Trump is reportedly amenable to a 25-cent gas tax hike—though his interest is being greeted with the same measure of salt and wariness as all other declarations recently coming out of the White House, notably a potentially punishing tariff on steel and aluminum, both commodities of which are crucial to the road and bridge industry.

Ryan’s position is in direct opposition to that of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who late last month told executives of state departments of transportation gathered at the annual Washington Briefing of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials that he hopes Congress can pass major new infrastructure investment legislation before its long August recess, or perhaps in a lame-duck session after the November elections.

Shuster, in remarks to the AASHTO conference and to reporters afterward, emphasized that Congress needs to put together legislation that invests in projects and raises new revenue to bolster the Highway Trust Fund for the long term. If it does not do so, he warned, state DOTs by early 2020 would be cutting some planned projects for lack of federal dollars.