Gas Tax Hike for Roads

Report calls for 40-cent federal gas tax hike, state fuel tax increases

Published in CSP Daily News

WASHINGTON -- A study by the National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Study Commission has recommended an increase in the federal gasoline tax of up to 40 cents per gallon over five years, said the Associated Press. Motorists now pay about 18 cents per gallon in federal gasoline taxes.

The report, issued Tuesday after two years of study, called for an investment of $225 billion a year for 50 years to rescue the highway trust fund from bankruptcy, relieve chronic gridlock, reduce air pollution from auto emissions and rebuild aging roads and bridges.

It said that other [image-nocss] sources of funding could come from tolls, peak-hour "congestion pricing" on highways, freight fees and ticket taxes for passenger rail improvements.

"When the economy is looking at a recession, it's not the time to be raising taxes of any kind," U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas) said, according to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Members of the commission acknowledged that higher prices at the pump would be painful for motorists, not to mention politicians. But the commission painted a bleak picture of America in the not-too-distant future—and disastrous congestion by 2055—if action is not taken soon.

The report, issued Tuesday after two years of study, called for an investment of $225 billion a year for 50 years to rescue the highway trust fund from bankruptcy, relieve chronic gridlock, reduce air pollution from auto emissions and rebuild aging roads and bridges.

That's about triple the amount currently spent at all levels of government on roads, rail lines, ports and the rest of the transportation grid, the newspaper said.

Congress will use the 258-page report as a starting point in drafting the next transportation bill. The 12-member commission was appointed in 2005 after Congress passed the most recent transportation bill, which funds road, transit and other projects through 2009.

Commissioners took input from 77 transportation experts and held field hearings across the country, where they heard testimony from hundreds of witnesses. One of those meetings was held in 2006 in Dallas. "Witnesses from every part of the United States described a transportation system increasingly paralyzed by gridlock," a nine-member majority of commissioners wrote.

But three commission members dissented with the conclusions of Tuesday's report, including chairperson and Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters.

The federal gasoline tax, currently 18.4 cents a gallon, hasn't been raised since 1993. The commission called for an increase of 5 to 8 cents a year for five years. Later, the gasoline tax would be indexed to rise gradually each year with the cost of road work. States would be asked to increase their gasoline taxes, too.

In addition to raising federal and state gasoline taxes, the commission recommends:

Lifting bans on tolling interstates in metro areas with a million or more residents. It suggests allowing tolls to increase during congestion, to bring in more revenue during peak travel periods and ultimately encourage more drivers to use the roads in off hours. Encouraging state and local governments to lease toll projects to private companies, which can then assume the risk of maintaining the roads for decades. Speed up the environmental-review process, which can take five years or more, to three years or less on projects that obviously have negligible impact on their surroundings. Do away with earmarks, which members of Congress often squeeze into transportation funding for pet projects in their districts. Earmarks now take up 11% of all transportation funds. Click here to view the full report.
http://www.transportationfortomorrow.org/final_report/