Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

There's growing acceptance among federal lawmakers for a road user fee to fund highway repairs, but how it would work — and who would end up paying — are unclear.

Why it matters: The Highway Trust Fund, which pays for roads and transit systems, is going broke. The existing federal gas tax isn't enough to meet rising costs, and the budget gap will only grow wider as cleaner cars burn less fuel.

  • Electric cars don't even need gas, which is why finding an alternative to the current 18.4-cent per gallon fuel tax is inevitable.

The big picture: President Biden is getting set to unveil a $3 trillion economic package that will include spending on everything from highways, bridges and rail to broadband networks and electric vehicle charging stations.

  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told lawmakers Thursday that the moment offers “the best chance in any of our lifetimes to make a generational investment in infrastructure” and that climate change must be addressed.

While infrastructure generally enjoys bipartisan support, lawmakers are divided over what should be included and how to pay for it.

  • Neither side seems interested in raising the gas tax at this point, even though electric vehicles still represent less than 3% of new cars sold.
  • Democrats suggest raising taxes on the wealthy, or hiking the corporate tax to 28% from today's 21%, but Republicans are firmly opposed.

One area of potential agreement — at least on highway funding — is a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) system that would charge drivers a penny or two for each mile logged behind the wheel.

  • The idea has been under consideration for years, and several states, including Oregon and Utah, are currently running pilots to test the technology and consumer acceptance.
  • Supporters say it's a way to ensure that electric vehicle owners — who currently pay no fuel taxes — chip in their fair share for road maintenance. (29 states have imposed alternative annual fees on EVs in the meantime.)
  • Buttigieg is open to a VMT. "We’re obviously going to have to come to more solutions if we’re going to preserve the user-paid principle," he told lawmakers Thursday.

Yes, but: There are technical and privacy challenges, and some environmentalists worry new fees would slow the adoption of EVs.

  • A VMT would do nothing to curb carbon dioxide emissions either, they note.
  • SUVs with the worst miles per gallon ratings would end up with a tax break, while fuel-sipping cars would pay more than they do today. The Washington Post has a cool interactive tool to visualize the potential impact.

How it works: Under a VMT system, drivers would report their mileage electronically, using a plug-in device in their cars or a smartphone app.

  • But forcing drivers to insert a transponder in their car raises worries about Big Brother tactics.
  • Commercial trucks already track their mileage, so VMT supporters say that's a natural place — along with ride-sharing fleets — to begin the new user fees. Not surprising: the American Trucking Associations objects.

The bottom line: Everyone agrees America's crumbling infrastructure needs fixing.

  • The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. a D+ on infrastructure, while an analysis of federal data by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) found that more than one-third of U.S. bridges need major repair work or should be replaced.

What to watch: No matter what happens with Biden’s ambitious infrastructure plan, Congress has until Sept. 30 to reauthorize a surface transportation funding bill, which pays for road and transit projects in all 50 states.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Mar 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats want Biden to restore Obama-era climate change policy

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some Capitol Hill Democrats are pressing President Biden to re-instate Obama-era carbon emissions and mileage rules for passenger cars — and then go much further.

Driving the news: 10 Senate Democrats and dozens of House Democrats, in letters yesterday, call for standards through 2025 that at least match prior rules weakened under President Trump.

Scoop: House progressives want Biden to supersize spending

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Progressive Democrats in the House are privately discussing how they can push President Biden for a second spending package substantially bigger than the $3 trillion over a decade floated in various news outlets this week.

Why it matters: These members are attuned to the climate group Sunrise Movement's argument that "the crises we face demand at least $1 trillion per year over the next decade," two sources familiar with the conversation told Axios.

Dems' immigration plan hits major roadblock

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Sunday that Democrats cannot include pathways to citizenship in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, per a copy of the ruling obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: It's a blow to Democrats who hoped to provide pathways for millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Using reconciliations would have allowed them to pass politically contentious immigration changes with only 50 votes, as opposed to the usual 60 required.