The Department of Transportation issued a statement on Saturday clarifying that the Biden administration is not considering taxing drivers per mile, after a quote by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg saying the idea had some merit went viral.
On Friday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg commented on per-mile driving taxes and gas taxes as a possible source of funding for infrastructure. When asked by CNBC’s Kayla Tausche during an interview about whether the tax measures were being considered as part of the new White House infrastructure bill, Buttigieg answered that vehicle-miles-traveled tax or mileage tax “could be a way to do it,” but stopped short of saying the measures were being actively considered as part of the upcoming bill, which is set to come in at a $3 trillion price tag.
Buttigieg added that many funding sources were being considered, telling CNBC, “I’m hearing a lot of appetite to make sure that there are sustainable funding streams…[a mileage tax] shows a lot of promise if we believe in that so-called user-pays principle: The idea that part of how we pay for roads is you pay based on how much you drive.” Buttigieg was sure to clarify that while the measures are part of the discussion, they are not actively being pursued at this time, adding: “You’re hearing a lot of ‘maybe’ here because all of these things need to be balanced and could be part of the mix.”
He also alluded to the Biden campaign promise not to raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000, saying of the VMT tax, “if there’s a way to do it that doesn’t increase the burden on the middle class, we can look at it, but if we do, we’ve got to recognize that’s still not going to be the long-term answer.” Critics of the Biden administration pounced on Buttigieg’s comments as some confusion ensued following the CNBC interview, after an edited clip of the interview went viral and appeared to show Buttigieg telling Tausche that the VMT and gas taxes were being considered as part of the new infrastructure plan.
In response to the confusion and criticism, the Department of Transportation put out a statement on Saturday clarifying Buttigieg’s comments during the CNBC interview. DOT spokesperson Ben Halle told the Insider on Saturday, “The Secretary was having a broad conversation about a variety of ways to fund transportation…To be clear, he never said that VMT was under consideration by the White House as part of this infrastructure plan— and it is not.” Buttigieg also appeared on CNN on Monday to further clarify that neither the VMT or gas tax were being actively considered as part of the infrastructure proposal.
The bill, which is scheduled to be laid out by President Biden on Wednesday in Pittsburgh where he began his 2020 presidential campaign, is slated to include a sweeping set of policies that aim to repair and maximize America’s roadways, rails, and bridges. The bill also includes measures that address climate change and in equity, offering infrastructure solutions that make a strong push to encourage drivers to utilize electric powered cars and offering universal pre-k programs.
Buttigieg is gearing up for pushback from Congressional Republicans, but indicated he is hopeful that bipartisan negotiations on the infrastructure bill would prove fruitful, telling CNN on Monday, “I hope we can work in good faith with folks across the aisle in Congress to get some votes there. Ultimately it’s up to them whether they are going to support something,” he continued. “But we’re going to work with them to try to shape it in a way that earns as much support as possible.”
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ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: AP NEWS