President Trump on Wednesday expressed support for a 25-cent fuel tax increase to fund his sweeping infrastructure plan, lawmakers said.
Lawmakers who attended a meeting with the president said Trump endorsed the idea of raising the gas tax and promised to provide leadership on the issue.
"To my surprise, President Trump, today in our meeting, offered his support for raising the gas and diesel tax by 25 cents a gallon and dedicating that money to improve our roads, highways, and bridges," Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware said in a statement.
The senator added that Trump “came back to the idea of a 25 cent increase several times throughout the meeting.”
The president reportedly said during the meeting he believes both sides can “find common ground” on infrastructure. "We'll see how it all turns out,” he said.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee who has long called for a gas tax hike, also said Trump discussed the potential tax increase. According to Politico, he told Trump at the meeting that Congress needs “really strong support from the White House” to push for a gas tax increase as House Speaker Paul Ryan is “not interested” in it.
Trump has long championed the issue of improving the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, unveiling a $1.5 trillion plan on Monday that would use a $200 billion federal investment to leverage more than $1 trillion in public and private funding to pay for the upgrades.
The plan would also cut the permitting process for new projects from 10 years to two years and ramp up investment for projects in rural America, including transportation, broadband, water, waste, power, flood management and ports.
The $200 billion of federal investment would be offset by “reductions in other areas of the budget” and half of the amount would go to grants for transportation, water, flood control, cleanup at some of the country's most polluted sites and other projects.
But the call to hike the gas tax, which has not been raised since 1993, drew the ire of conservatives who oppose any increases in taxation.
"I'd hate to see a new tax siphon off 20 percent of the $1,000 tax reform bonuses back to the swamp this year," said FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon in a statement.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, claims gas tax revenue is often used to fund projects unrelated to infrastructure. "President Trump will not be fooled into following the Democrat play book," Norquist said in a statement.
The White House declined to confirm the president’s discussions on Wednesday, with a White House spokeswoman saying “said "everything is on the table" in the infrastructure plan and the gas tax has "pros and cons."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.