Buttigieg Backtracks After Saying Mileage Tax Shows ‘Promise’ For Infrastructure Plan
ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA - MARCH 30: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg attends an event titled “Transforming Rail in Virginia” at the Amtrak-VRE station in March 30, 2021 in Alexandria, Virginia. The Transforming Rail in Virginia program will cost about $3.7 billion and will double Amtrak service and double Virginia Railway Express (VRE) service along the I-95 corridor, as well as work toward the separation of freight and passenger lines.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg backed away from the idea of taxing vehicles on a per-mile driven basis, only two days after he suggested that the concept could be among a mix of methods used to finance new federal infrastructure spending. 

Buttigieg told CNN earlier this week that a mileage tax, which would involve levying taxes on Americans for each mile driven, was “not part of the conversation” for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill. “Just want to make sure that’s really clear,” remarked Buttigieg. 

Buttigieg promptly followed-up: “But you will be hearing a lot more details in the coming days about how we envision being able to fund this, and again, these are carefully thought-through, responsible ideas, that ultimately are going to be a win for the economy and need to be compared to the unaffordable cost of the status quo.”

CNN host Japer Tapper, however, noted that the transportation secretary’s answer on the mileage tax was “something of a backtrack” from remarks that he made on Friday, when Buttigieg suggested that such a tax showed “a lot of promise.” Buttigieg, for his part, didn’t dispute Tapper’s characterization. 

During an interview with CNBC on Friday, Buttigieg said that he believed a mileage-based tax “showed a lot of promise” for the future, unlike the gas tax, a concept that he was dismissive toward as a long-term solution. “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, the gas tax used to be the obvious way to do it. It’s not anymore. So a so-called vehicle miles traveled tax, or mileage tax, whatever you want to call it, could be a way to do it.”

Although President Joe Biden just signed his first major legislative initiative weeks ago — a $1.9 trillion spending bill dubbed the “American Rescue Plan” — the president is expected to make an infrastructure speech on Wednesday for a sweeping package that will reportedly cost trillions. The announcement is expected to outline some tax increases

“The speech tomorrow is about making an investment in America, not just modernizing our roads, our railways, our bridges, but building an infrastructure of the future,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. “Some of it is certainly infrastructure, shovel-ready projects, some of it is ‘how do we expand broadband access,’ some of it is ensuring that we are addressing the needs in peoples homes and communities.”

Psaki said on Monday that Biden “has a plan to fix our infrastructure and a plan to pay for it.”

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