McFadden says he could support gas tax increase, then quickly reverses

MinnPost photo by Devin Henry
Minnesota GOP Senate candidate Mike McFadden was in St. Cloud to talk with the area Chamber of Commerce.

Updated below

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden declared, then quickly walked back, his potential support for a gas tax increase on Wednesday before aides whisked him away from questions about funding federal transportation projects.

McFadden said that, “yeah,” he could support raising the gas tax in order to bolster the federal highway trust fund as part of a revenue-neutral tax code overhaul. But not five minutes later, he revised and extended: “I just want to reiterate that I will not support raising the gas tax.”

McFadden was in St. Cloud with 6th District congressional candidate Tom Emmer, fresh off their primary election victories Tuesday night, to talk with the area Chamber of Commerce when the subject turned to funding streams for the federal Highway Trust Fund, an account supported by the federal gas tax meant to bolster transportation construction around the country. Congress recently extended funding for the program through next spring, but lawmakers have long grappled with how to keep the fund from going insolvent as gas tax revenues fall.

McFadden said Congress should consider “a dramatic overhaul of our tax code” to fix the fund.

“In terms of revision of that, I started by saying you’ve got to decide where your priorities have been, where are you going to spend it?” he told the group. “And transportation absolutely is something that is a priority.”

Asked by reporters later for clarification, McFadden said he wants to “look at all taxes. I want something that’s revenue-neutral, so in aggregate there’s no tax increase, but it’s revenue neutral. We can figure out a more effective tax system in this country.”

Does that mean he’d consider increasing the 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax as part of a tax reform package?

“Yeah, as long as it was revenue neutral so that in the aggregate there is not a tax increase to the American public,” he said. “That should be a non-partisan issue, we say it’s revenue-neutral, it’s a special interest issue, I get that, but that’s why I think you need bipartisan support to do it.”

The subject moved to education, and the scrum soon ended as he headed off to another event. But McFadden talked to staffers and returned to the reporters:

“I just want to reiterate that I will not support raising the gas tax,” he said.

What about as part of a revenue-neutral tax code overhaul?

“No, no I won’t.”

Aides moved McFadden out of the room en route to another campaign stop before he could answer how he’d keep the trust fund solvent absent a gas tax increase.

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry

Comments (21)

  1. Submitted by Jay Fellows on 08/13/2014 - 04:08 pm.

    How is this news?

    In other headlines, I found a dollar on the ground. Seriously, he spoke with staffers and clarified his position. This is a really standard political practice on both sides of the aisle. Not news-worthy at all.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 08/13/2014 - 08:03 pm.

      Clarified his position?

      He completely reversed himself within five minutes. Sure, dude…nothing to see here…and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

      • Submitted by Jay Fellows on 08/14/2014 - 08:30 am.

        Please.

        Guys seriously?! It’s politics. Obama did one worse. He said he’d do a buunch of stuff and then just ignored what he campaigned on completely (e.g. increased troops in Afghanistan, extended the Patriot Act, etc.). While I disagree with McFadden on this issue, at least he’s telling the people exactly what he’ll support. Let’s not turn MinnPost into the Daily Kos, let’s keep things a little more objective…

    • Submitted by E Gamauf on 08/23/2014 - 10:18 am.

      I was for it – before I was against it?

      Nothing unusual here – move on?

      I differ: This is becoming a chronic behavior out of the challenging candidate.
      These gaffes will be glossed over later, but they may represent a truer moment than we shall see again.

      It took the re-messaging of staffers to tell him what to think, or say.

      How many times has this happened already?
      This happens often enough to know he either has no opinions & rationale, or is hiding an agenda and merely saying what will get him elected. Then we are stuck with him for 6 years.

      Some of that is politics-as-usual, or is it?
      I don’t want a candidate that tells me competing things on so many issues – and can’t explain his reversal!!!

  2. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 08/13/2014 - 05:10 pm.

    Flip. Flop.

    Where are those flip flops Geo. W. Bush supports used to taunt John Kerry during the ’04 campaign?

    Must be in McFadden’s closet.

    With these guys, everything, and they mean everything, is on the table. Except what isn’t on the table.

  3. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 08/13/2014 - 05:31 pm.

    Fiscal “responsibility” with roads

    It’s unsurprising, unfortunately, that this typical oil-and-gas-lackey candidate would meekly walk back any notion of “raising” the measly 15.44 cent highway account gas tax after talking to his bosses, a tax which has been falling every year for 2 decades due to inflation alone. (Down 36%).

    Take a look at the HTF finances from FY2009 to present:

    https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/highwaytrustfund/index.htm
    https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/highwaytrustfund/docs/fe-1_apr14.pdf

    In the first 10 months of this fiscal year, outlays have exceeded net tax receipts by $8.4 billion. Since the beginning of FY2009, the cumulative total, adjusted to today’s dollars, is a whopping $42 billion.

    So unless he has some magic formula for massively and continuously reducing expenditures on roads, and somehow finding $42 billion plus interest to pay back money already pilfered, then he’s just another Republican dressed as a fiscal hawk who instead wants to sink this country further into debt.

    Several ironies to note:

    1) Patron saint of the Republican Party, Ronald Reagan, more than doubled the gas tax.
    2) His successor, HW Bush, raised it another 55%.
    3) Half of HW Bush’s raise of the tax went to deficit reduction. Then when when Clinton and a Democratic Congress took control in 1993, they raised the tax 4.3 cents, 100% of which was dedicated to deficit reduction.
    4) Once Republicans took control of Congress in 1995, supposedly for the sake of fiscal discipline, their very first budget took away HW Bush’s deficit reduction increase of 2.5 cents and dedicated it to the Highway Trust Fund. They did the same to the Democrats’ 4.3 cent increase two years later.
    https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2012/fe101a.cfm

    Finally, it’s instructive to look at the US gas taxes in a global context. Note how much of an outlier we are:
    http://cdn.static-economist.com/sites/default/files/2011.png?1345202166

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/13/2014 - 05:46 pm.

    Shocking!

    My goodness! Mr. McFadden was nearly overcome by a trace of common sense for a moment there, before ideology, once again, triumphed. As all the disciples of Grover Norquist eventually discover, insisting upon “no new taxes” puts candidates between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

  5. Submitted by mark wallek on 08/14/2014 - 08:48 am.

    Narcissist

    This is all we get anymore as far as candidates go, and McFadden absolutely reeks of it. When will “service” actually be part of the political life again? Likely never given the corporate control of candidate vetting that assures us that any normal human citizen will not be running for office.

  6. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/14/2014 - 11:31 am.

    The marshmallow theory of increasing taxes?

    Anything is possible with respect to tax raising as long as it is revenue neutral was Mr. McFadden’s first response. In other words, if you poke a marshmallow, as long as it doesn’t change volume this is OK.

    As anyone who watched Eric Black’s multiple attempts to get straight answers out of Mr. McFadden knows, this is very difficult. The old phrase “trying to nail jelly to a wall” comes to mind.

    The marshmallow theory may be suspended in the event that tax increases are listed in the handbook which Mr. McFadden’s backers have written.

    I shudder to think of the campaign adverts that are coming.

    • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 08/14/2014 - 02:41 pm.

      Shudder no longer, or maybe, begin shuddering

      I came across a McFadden online ad a few days ago that really caught my eye. Unfortunately I can’t remember its source. It reads:

      “Joke is over, Al.
      MN families deserve
      a better senator

      No more
      Hollywood and
      East Coast Agenda
      in the Senate

      I’m for MN!
      Not for Hollywood”

      Hollywood?
      Franken has been a senator for years now. At which point does a career in entertainment, or anything else for that matter, cease to define you? When should a career ever define you? What does Franken have to do with the movie industry? Is Franken a supporter of every message in every movie that is in some way offensive to a particular interest group? The most subtle firing of neurons in the brain would pose these and other questions automatically. Naturally, the writers of this ad aren’t expecting analysis, they’re counting on programmed responses.

      “East coast agenda”?
      Do you hear the dog whistle in your ears? It’s impossible not to read this as a substitute for, at least in large part, “gay agenda.” While many people hardly pay attention to the march of gay marriage through the country’s court system, any familiarity with religious conservative websites knows that this issue is bogeyman #1. Rhetoric there is dialed to 11; the country hangs by a thread, and the evil gays are coming for your kids.

      Reporters might consider asking McFadden what the ‘Hollywood and east coast agenda” actually is.

      • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 08/19/2014 - 09:02 am.

        Confusing

        I didn’t know Hollywood was on the East Coast

        • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/19/2014 - 03:56 pm.

          Perfectly Clear

          He said “Hollywood and East Coast agenda,” not “Hollywood East Coast agenda” or even “Hollywood’s East Coast agenda.”

          I suppose you could make a case for Hollywood and East Coast agendas,” but that doesn’t change the meaning much except to imply that there are two agendas; one for Hollywood and one for the East Coast.

          Hollywood and East Coast agenda: There is one agenda and it applies to both Hollywood and the East Coast.
          Hollywood East Coast agenda: There is an agenda for a place called Hollywood East Coast.
          Hollywood’s East Coast agenda: Hollywood has an agenda for the East Coast.

          In order for Hollywood to be on the east coast you would need something on the order of “the agenda for Hollywood’s East Coast enclave” to make it clear you’re talking about a Hollywood on the East Coast and not the one on the West Coast that everyone knows and loves.

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/19/2014 - 04:25 pm.

        You Ain’t From Around Here, Are Ya?

        The Hollywood and east cost references are all plays on people’s fear of the Other. If they don’t look like us, talk like us, or have our exact same goals, then they are to be met at the door with a shotgun locked and loaded. It reminds me of the old Pace picante sauce commercial where they exclaim “this sauce is made in…NEW YORK CITY!” As if one mass produced salsa is somehow morally superior to another mass produced sauce made in another factory just down the road.

  7. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/19/2014 - 04:31 pm.

    Gas Tax

    We’re a billion dollars short in this state alone to keep up with maintenance on our highways. And that’s without adding any new lanes anywhere. Those roads have to get paid for somehow and while cars are indeed getting more fuel efficient and some people are driving less, raising the tax will still help to bring in revenue for repairs and improvements. It may not be the one and only fix to the shortfall, but it can certainly be part of the mix of solutions.

    An added bonus is higher gas prices will encourage people to drive less, which makes mass transportation more attractive, reduces air pollution, reduces our heat island effect, and reduces our health care costs.

    A billion dollars a year. Man, that’s a lot of money!

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