U.S. President Donald Trump should raise federal gas tax to fund the renewal of America's aging roads, bridges and airports, former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday.
In light of a bipartisan enthusiasm for infrastructure investment after the midterm elections, LaHood told CNBC news channel that Trump should "persuade Republicans in the Senate that they're going to have to pass some kind of revenue-raiser" to get much-needed money for infrastructure improvement.
Trump suggested raising gas tax to pay for infrastructure spending in February. In the same month, his administration unveiled a 10-year, 200-billion-dollar federal funding for a grand infrastructure scheme worth 1.5 trillion dollars in total.
According to White House officials, federal funding for any particular project would be capped at 20 percent under Trump's plan, and the rest is to be shouldered by city- and state-level authorities.
"That's not going to work," said LaHood, who served under former President Barack Obama and currently co-chairs the Building America's Future, a national infrastructure coalition.
Raising the federal gas tax has always been a fiercely debated topic on Capitol Hill as it will add burdens to middle- and working-class Americans. The current levy is 18.4 cents a gallon on retail gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel - unchanged since 1993.
Gas and diesel taxes constitute a main source of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, which plays a major role in covering the nation's spending on highways and mass transit. Since the gas tax rate is not adjusted to inflation, the tax's diminishing purchasing power has been draining the fund as the years pass.
"If you raise the gas tax 10 cents a gallon, you get billions of dollars. That's a very, very good start, much better than having a Highway Trust Fund that's broke," LaHood said.