Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg suggested raising the federal gas tax in order to fund infrastructure initiatives during his confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Republican Florida Sen. Rick Scott asked the former South Bend mayor if he would favor a federal gas tax increase to pay for the Highway Trust Fund. The fund is mostly financed by revenue from federal gas taxes but has become less financially solvent in recent years, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
“Well, I think all options need to be on the table,” Buttigieg responded. “As you know, the gas tax has not been increased since 1993, and it’s never been pegged to inflation. And it’s one of the reasons why the current state of the Highway Trust Fund is that there’s more going out than coming in.”
The federal gas tax is currently 18.4 cents per gallon according to the Tax Policy Center. The rate was raised 10 times between 1933 and 1993 but has seen no increase since then.
Buttigieg later questioned whether raising gas taxes would be effective in the long term given the projected trend towards renewable energy.
“In the long term, we need to bear in mind also that as vehicles become more efficient and as we pursue electrification, sooner or later there will be questions about whether the gas tax can be effective at all,” he said, according to Politico.
But in the short to medium term, Buttigieg said he would consider “revisiting the gas tax, adjusting it or connecting it to inflation.”
The Biden administration is expected to pursue an ambitious climate agenda that includes sustainable transportation infrastructure. If confirmed, Buttigieg would play a major role in implementing clean energy initiatives at the Department of Transportation. (RELATED: Climate Experts Sound The Alarm On Biden’s $2 Trillion Climate Plan)
Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee also brought up the issue during Thursday’s confirmation hearing. Buttigieg again floated the idea of a gas tax increase but did not definitively say if he would commit to such a proposal if confirmed.
“Well it’s possible,” he said. “Certainly many states have taken that step, including my own, but it’s not the only approach.”
“Certainly one of the concerns with the gas tax is it’s likely not as progressive as the federal income tax, for example,” he said.