By Dave Bauer, executive vice president of advocacy, ARTBA
President Donald Trump announced March 15 that CNBC analyst Lawrence Kudlow will be his next director of the National Economic Council. The council is the principal presidential advisory body on economic policy issues. Kudlow will succeed Gary Cohn who stepped down recently over a disagreement with Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Kudlow is a long-time fixture on economic and political television programs and is a syndicated columnist. He was skeptical of a motor fuels tax increase during a February 2018 interview with a Washington, D.C., radio station:
“A good question. And I don’t think they will. I don’t think that will come to fruition. It comes around every time we have this discussion about infrastructure. I doubt very much there will be a federal gas tax [increase]. If states and localities want to do that, it’s up to them. The federal government? I don’t think so. I don’t think it will ever happen.”
Later in the interview, he praised the premise of the administration’s infrastructure proposal:
“I think his infrastructure plan is more interesting, in terms that they are talking about a trillion five ($1.5 trillion). You know that may or may not be the right number, but he wants most of it to be done by private companies, and the possibility of private projects and public-private partnerships, which will have to be paid for, like, I guess, Indiana has tried it successfully, and Texas has tried it successfully. I think Virginia has tried it successfully also. So that’s OK, it’s on the table. And I don’t think you can do it federally, but I think you can do it states and locally. You know, we’ll see how these things are done.”
Kudlow criticized a proposal from Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to raise the federal gas tax in a 2015 column:
“What a great idea. American consumers and businesses finally get a break with plunging oil and gasoline prices. Main Street finally has something to cheer about. And then Mr. Corker weighs in with a wet-blanket proposal to raise the federal gasoline and diesel taxes by 12 cents a gallon over two years from the current 18.4 cents.”
President Trump has routinely signaled his willingness to support federal motor fuels tax increase as part of an infrastructure package.