Congressman Proposes 15-Cent Federal Gas Tax Hike

Published in CSP Daily News

Increase would phase in over three years

Earl Blumenauer

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and others have introduced H.R. 3636, the Update, Promote & Develop America's Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act. This bill would phase in a 15-cent-per-gallon federal tax increase over the next three years on gasoline and diesel.

The legislation, if passed, would raise the federal tax on gasoline to 33.4 cents per gallon and on diesel to 42.8 cents.

"The gas tax hasn't been increased since the beginning of the Clinton administration," said Blumenauer. "Today, with inflation and increased fuel efficiency for vehicles, the average motorist is paying about half as much per mile as they did in 1993. It's time for Congress to act. There's a broad and persuasive coalition that stands ready to support Congress, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National AFL-CIO, the construction and trucking industry, cyclists, professional groups, numerous associations of small and medium businesses, local governments and transit agencies. We just need to give them something to support."

In 2009, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimated that more than $70.9 billion worth of repairs were needed just to maintain safe infrastructure; that number has since increased The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that surface transportation in the United States needs more than $2 trillion of investment in order to remain economically competitive.

In recent years, Congress has added to the General Fund deficit by transferring more than $50 billion of General Fund revenue to the Highway Trust Fund in order to keep it afloat. In order to maintain current funding in the following years, the Highway Trust Fund will need almost $15 billion a year in addition to current gasoline tax receipts, said Blumenauer. Continuing down the current path will mean a 30% drop in federal transportation spending by 2024, he said. The UPDATE Act would raise around $170 billion over 10 years, according to the congressman.

"Instituting a reasonable gas tax increase now provides the revenues Democrats say they want with a form of a user fee which historically has been acceptable to Republicans including Ronald Reagan, who increased the gas tax by a nickel a gallon in 1982," said Blumenauer. "Addressing the infrastructure deficit, stabilizing transportation funding, and helping America's all-too-slow economic recovery is critical if we want a livable and economically prosperous country in the years to come."

On the Senate side, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Environment & Public Works Committee, has proposed levying a tax on fuel at the wholesale level, collecting money at the refinery rather than the pump, reported The Washington Post.

Blumenauer sought to bolster his bill's chances with tax-averse House Republicans by displaying a coalition of support at Wednesday's news conference.

"There's a broad and persuasive coalition that stands ready to support [this in] Congress," he said, "including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, national AFL-CIO, the construction and trucking ­industry, cyclists, professional groups, numerous associations of small and medium businesses, local governments, and transit agencies."

He pointed out that a gasoline tax puts the burden on those who use the roadways, "which historically has been acceptable to Republicans, including Ronald Reagan, who increased the gas tax by a nickel a gallon in 1982."

Click here to read the full Post report.