- President Donald Trump, according to The Wall Street Journal, is ready to compromise on the conditions of his $1 trillion infrastructure program in order to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign promise and score a major bipartisan win in the run-up to the 2020 elections.
- The biggest reported shift for the president is his administration's willingness to increase the federal share of the infrastructure program significantly, a give that will likely entice Democrats back into negotiations. In a previous failed attempt at an infrastructure spending bill, the president limited the federal government’s investment to 20%, with the bulk of financing responsibility left to the states and local governing authorities.
- Still unknown is the role that public-private partnerships, as well as gas tax increases, could play in the new plan. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who is on track to chair the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the next Congress, proposed an increase to the federal fuel tax in March 2017 in order to help pay for transportation infrastructure, but that plan made little progress. The president, who at one point based much of his original infrastructure strategy on private investment, did an about-face during his first year in office and said they were "more trouble than they are worth."
An increase to the federal fuel tax, which has remained unchanged at 18.4 cents on a gallon of gas and 24.4 cents on a gallon of diesel since 1993 when former President Bill Clinton was in office, would pump up the federal Highway Trust Fund, which allocates money to states for highway and bridge projects and is headed for insolvency unless it can find new revenue. DeFazio’s proposed increase of just one cent per gallon could add $17 billion each year to the trust fund’s coffers.
There has been a steady resistance on the part of lawmakers to raise the tax, however, which has been characterized as a tax on working Americans. But citizens in some states have demonstrated that they’re happy to pay a little more at the pump if it means better infrastructure.
Last month, for example, California voters rejected a repeal of the 12-cents-per-gallon gas tax and 30-cents-per-gallon diesel tax that was enacted in 2017 as a way to help pay for the state’s $52 billion infrastructure improvement program.