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A traffic jam in Chicago. Photo: Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A White House adviser working to pass President Trump’s infrastructure package is casting doubt on whether a hike in the gas tax, as it’s currently structured, would do its intended job:

“We need to figure out as a country what kind of infrastructure we want for the next 50 years and then decide how we’re going to pay for it, instead of finding ourselves in the traditional legacy arguments of gas tax or no gas tax."
— Alexander Herrgott, associate director for infrastructure at WH Council on Environmental Quality

Why it matters: Trump endorsed a 25-cent gas tax hike to pay for his infrastructure package at a White House meeting Wednesday, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports. The idea is likely dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, where many Republicans say they’re not about to hike taxes right after passing tax cuts.

Gritty details: The federal gas tax, which Congress hasn't raised since 1993, stands at 18.4 cents. The revenue goes toward the Highway Trust Fund, which is used to maintain the nation’s roads, highways and mass transit systems. Current law restricts the tax’s funds from being used for any other type of infrastructure, the point Herrgott was making Tuesday night at an event hosted by Republican Women for Progress, a conservative women's’ group.

“How can we talk about rebuilding and assessing a user fee like a gas tax when we haven’t adequately communicated what they’re getting for those dollars?” Herrgott said. “Before we have the conversation about raising revenue for just highways, we are trying to address airports, bridges, transit facilities, water, etc. – a much broader agenda. That’s what we’re really trying to do.”

One level deeper: Much of the nation’s infrastructure is paid for by siloed forms of tax revenues, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan think tank. Airports, for example, are maintained with their own trust fund and a ticket tax.

“Of course Congress can amend the structure and redirect it [the gas tax] in some infrastructure package,” said Steve Ellis, spokesman for the group. “But there are already those that complain gas tax dollars should just go to roads, not transit or bus or anything else. And the fact is it doesn’t generate enough revenue for the amount Congress already wants to spend!”

Go deeper

Trump's assault on Chinese tech left loose ends galore

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's haphazard war on Chinese tech has left the Biden administration with a raft of unfinished business involving efforts to restrict Chinese firms and products in U.S. markets.

Why it matters: The Chinese and American tech industries are joined at the hip in many ways, and that interdependence has shaped decades of prosperity. But now security concerns and economic rivalries are wrenching them apart.

Biden's thin, short path

President Biden has a thin, short path to success in his first six to nine months, top advisers tell Axios. His success, or failure, will dictate whether he can hold off both Republican critics — and activist Democrats who want him to go bigger, faster.

The big picture: Biden has to get vaccinations moving and the stimulus bill pumping, so the economy will start rocking, advisers said. That’s why he loaded his White House with veteran loyalists focused almost exclusively on these two topics.

Most states aren't prioritizing prisons for COVID vaccines

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Most states have not made much of their incarcerated populations eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The big picture: Jails and prisons have seen big outbreaks and a higher death rate than the general public, but with supplies still limited, most governors aren't putting prisoners at the top of the list for vaccines.