EAST HARTFORD, CT — U.S. Rep. John B. Larson has a big idea about how to solve the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and he wants to create a carbon tax to pay for it.
Standing Tuesday on the banks of the Connecticut River, Larson announced the “America Wins Act,” which he plans to introduce when Congress reconvenes in September.
The legislation, which is still being drafted, would tax greenhouse gas emissions from coal, oil, and natural gas. The tax on the fossil fuel producers is expected to raise $1.8 trillion over 10 years, which he says should be enough to invest in America’s infrastructure. Since that tax would get passed along to consumers, there would also be a carbon tax rebate of about $800 billion.
There would also be $50 billion over 10 years dedicated toward funding coal miner pensions and assisting coal miners with transitioning out of the industry.
Larson’s proposal is not the only infrastructure plan up for debate in Congress. However, he says none of the other proposals “are as bold” or raise as much money as the one he is proposing.
“I’m convinced an infrastructure bill is going to go forward,” Larson said.
He said he wants his proposal to be part of the debate and he thinks the carbon tax is the most predictable and stable way to fund it.
But, admittedly, there are no Republicans in Congress at the moment publicly supporting a carbon tax.
However, Larson said that’s what Congress is all about. He said they have to stand the proposals next to each other and decide on the best path forward.
“Infrastructure is neither Democrat or Republican,” Larson said, although he was unable to make the same argument for a carbon tax.
Larson is proposing a $49 tax for every ton of carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels. The tax would increase annually 2 percent above inflation. It would also be phased in over time and a carbon equivalency fee would be imposed on imports to ensure that foreign competitors play on a level playing field with domestic firms.
“This is a federal responsibility,” Larson said.
He said a carbon tax is supported by some in Republican President Donald Trump’s administration, and he added that it would be “political malpractice” to pitch an infrastructure bill without a way to pay for it.
Larson, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said the American people deserve to know how things are going to be funded.
Former Secretary of State James Baker visited the White House in February to pitch a carbon tax. Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, was reportedly supportive of the concept.
Larson mentioned both Baker and Cohn in his remarks Tuesday.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also advocated for a national carbon tax policy while he was CEO at Exxon Mobil. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and who was among a group of technology leaders advising Trump at the beginning of his presidency, also supports a carbon tax.
Larson plans to bring U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania to Connecticut next month to go over plans to transform Interstates 84 and 91 in Hartford into tunnels. Shuster is the chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
Larson said his tunneling proposal is not part of the “America Wins Act,” but could be funded under the legislation if it’s adopted by Congress.