Calling it a "user fee," Republican Sen. James Inhofe is considering joining a growing group of lawmakers who are pondering a gas tax increase as they move to find funds to repair the nation's ragtag infrastructure, The New York Times
The nation's gas tax was last raised in 1993 and currently sits at 18.4 cents per gallon. But as many enjoy the lowest gas prices in close to a decade, such a hike would likely be very unpopular, especially with high hopes afoot as the new GOP-led Congress assumes power.
Such a tax has generally been viewed as "an anathema to conservatives and long seen as political poison to anyone running for re-election," the Times noted.
But Inhofe, of Oklahoma, a conservative who took the lead as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said his immediate goal was to pass a highway bill to assist infrastructure woes by bolstering the nation's Highway Trust Fund, the Times said.
With that, a gas tax hike remained a possibility, Inhofe said. "It’s not a tax. It’s a user fee," he said Wednesday of renewed consideration. "Nothing is off the table."
Democrats have also been amendable to such a hike, CBS News
"If there's ever going to be an opportunity to raise the gas tax, the time when oil prices are so low is the time to do it," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.
Added her Illinois Senate colleague, Dick Durbin, the Senate's minority whip to The Hill
: "I think now's the time to do it, but we ought to do it in a thoughtful way."
Some conservatives take a dim view of raising taxes, but Inhofe said he believes he can sell it as needed, the Times noted.
"As a conservative myself, I’ve been successful at explaining this to far-right groups," he said. "The increase of a user fee is different from a tax. There’s a direct relationship between the fee and the benefit."
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