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Top White House economic advisor floats the idea of gas tax hike

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Gary Cohn, the top economic advisor to the White House, reportedly hinted at raising the federal gasoline tax on Wednesday. This echoes a similar suggestion by President Donald Trump earlier this year.

Politico reported that Cohn warned a bipartisan group of 40 Democrats and Republicans that they would be getting the opportunity to vote on an increase to the gas tax when Congress submits a infrastructure package in early 2018. Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, made the statement during a discussion regarding elements of the administration’s $1.5 trillion tax cut with the Problem Solvers Caucus.

Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA) who was in the group said, “I suggested that we should finance infrastructure and we should find that financing mechanisms in tax reform, and we should look at the user fee as a way to pay for it” adding, “I’ll just say he was very receptive to that idea.”

Currently, the United States government imposes a tax of 18.4 cents per gallon on retail gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon diesel. The revenue of which goes directly to the Highway Trust Fund which pays for road construction and mass transportation projects.

Trump stated in May of this year he was “open” to the idea of raising the gas tax if it was used to fund improvements to the nation’s infrastructure. Then White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer later reiterated that the statement wasn’t an endorsement of raising the tax and stated that an undisclosed group of long-haul truckers had asked the president to consider the hike, using the extra income to patch roads.

The tax hasn’t changed since 1993 and attempts to raise it has received stiff opposition in the past. Shortly after Sean Spicers comments, White House infrastructure advisor Richard LeFrak told CNBC that the president deserved credit for broaching what has been historically “the third rail of politics.” He also noted that some states have taken it upon themselves to raise the gas taxes on their own.

Mike Simpson, a Republican Congressman from Idaho, stated he would support a proposed increase. “It’s a user fee,” he said, “We’ve got to convince people that the money goes to roads and bridges and not to all the other bull.”

The average national gas price stands at $2.45 a gallon, prices having remained relatively low since the oil industries downturn in 2014.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Article written by HEI contributor Kevin Abbott.

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