Sen. Portman: Gas Tax ‘May Not’ Be Part Of Final Infrastructure Bill

Sen. Portman: Gas Tax 'May Not' Be Part Of Final Infrastructure Bill rob portman speaks Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, attend a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on June 09, 2021. ( Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

By Fran Beyer | Sunday, 20 June 2021 11:32 AM

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on Sunday suggested a gas tax may not wind up included in an infrastructure bill.

In an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Portman is part of a growing bipartisan effort to push through a massive bill that has faced pushback on how it will be paid for — including from a gas tax that the Biden administration has been pushing.

“It may not,” he said of inclusion of a gas tax. “But the administration, therefore, will need to come forward with other ideas without raising taxes.”

“What we don't want to do is hurt the economy as we're coming out of this pandemic by raising taxes on working families,” he continued. “That's, frankly, what's done in the $6 trillion package, the largest tax increase in American history in addition to the huge spending. It's important that we have pay-fors, but we don't want to raise taxes.”

Portman touted a bipartisan plan that does that.

“Ours is about core infrastructure,” he said. “It is paid for… without raising taxes. I do think we have agreement on that. I think there are very creative ways to pay for infrastructure.”

“Let’s use the power of the federal government to borrow at lower rates to leverage private sector funding as well as state and local funding,” he said. “Also, we're repurposing [COVID-19] funding.”

According to Portman, the bipartisan plan supports “long-term investments to increase our productivity as a country, increase our competitiveness.”

“All the economics of this work well for our long-term economic growth,” he argued. “That's what this is about. It's something that can be paid for differently…a revolving loan program. Much is being done with regard to water infrastructure and the grid, the ratepayers themselves will pay that back. … We’re not going further into deficit but understanding these are long-term capital assets that we need to do.”

Portman conceded billionaires like Jeff Bezos are not ignored in the compromise.

“They should be paying taxes, and that's actually part of our proposal, too,” he said. “We have about a $63 billion pay-for helping to close the tax gap, that assumes about a $40 billion investment in the IRS… better taxpayer service which is important right now, but also enforcement. Let's be sure we're closing that, but not in a way that's too intrusive in the lives of Americans in small businesses.”

“I think that's a good sweet spot, a compromise,” he added. “The administration talked about a $700 billion fund here. That isn't appropriate in our view. There's a bipartisan agreement on helping to close that tax gap.”

Portman also said election reform ought to stay with states.

“The bottom line is we should make it easy to vote in this country,” he said. “We should also make it hard to cheat. I'm proud of our Ohio election system and I think they do a very good job. It's based on a bipartisan effort. That's the concern about what [Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.] is trying to do. Although, I appreciate him trying to find the middle ground. Who knows? Maybe something can be done.”

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