A gas tax increase ain't happening. No way, no how. That was the message from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to reporters on Thursday at the congressional Republican retreat in this small Pennsylvania town. "No," he said. "I don't see us passing -- we won't pass a gas tax increase."
It's a straightforward problem: the Highway Trust Fund, which plays a central role in financing U.S. infrastructure projects, is short on money. The fund is financed through a federal gas tax, which hasn't been raised in over 20 years, pushing American investment in infrastructure to its lowest point in nearly 70 years.
Fortunately, there's a straightforward solution: raise the federal gas tax. Better yet, it's a bipartisan solution -- Democrats support an increase, as do plenty of notable Republicans, including Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and even Charles Krauthammer.
Now, there's disagreement about how much to raise the gas tax, and what other policies should be included in the change, but the general point is the same: raising the tax would bolster the Highway Trust Fund, boost investments, and help both the economy and our infrastructure, which even Republicans concede is currently "on life support."
And yet, it's apparently a non-starter in the Republican-led House.
This comes just a few days after House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) said, in no uncertain terms, "The Speaker doesn't support a gas tax hike. Period."
Of course, Boehner also said this week, "We've got to find a way to deal with America's crumbling infrastructure." That's true; we do. But Boehner, Ryan, and House Republicans continue to argue that the obvious, effective, and bipartisan remedy will not be considered.
Fine. What's the House GOP's alternate solution? At this point, there isn't one, short of the Speaker emphasizing the need to "find a way." No one, including Boehner himself, has been willing to say what that "way" might be.
It's a familiar dynamic, isn't it? Many on the left start with a premise: "Let's solve the problem." Many on the right start with a different promise: "Let's solve the problem after agreeing that no one's taxes will ever go up by any amount at any time."