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Infrastructure Week: DeFazio Eyes 2019 for Gas Tax

May 15, 2018 Shaun Courtney

A federal gas tax increase will help fund the next surface transportation bill if Democrats take back the House, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) told Bloomberg Government in an exclusive interview.

“We’ll set the targets, we’ll recognize the need and then I’ll work with my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee to get it funded,” DeFazio, the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said about using the gas tax to fund the surface transportation bill.

DeFazio could become chairman depending on the outcome of the November elections. The federal fuel tax has not been increased since 1993.

The administration’s proposal to focus on infrastructure in 2018 and pass legislation to address the country’s infrastructure needs stalled once it made its way to Congress. Funding for surface transportation and a gas tax hike to pay for infrastructure have no chance in 2018, DeFazio said in a May 9 interview in his House office.

“Speaker Ryan is opposed to any increase in user fees of any support and any additional increase in transportation infrastructure. As long as he’s the speaker, I don’t see any meaningful legislation to fund surface transportation legislation moving through the House of Representatives,” DeFazio said about Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

The odds of an gas tax hike, even during the lame duck session in 2018, are, “Zero. Nil. Non-existent,” DeFazio said.

“I am hopeful that if the House of Representatives changes hands we will have a meaningful bill we don’t need much more policy changes. We have pretty good policy in the FAST ACT, it’s just inadequate funding,” he said. Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in 2015 to authorize surface transportation programs through 2020.

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