With the current highway bill, MAP-21, nearing expiration and the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), the main transportation funding source, projected to shortfall in just over two months, the search is on for a new way to fund transportation infrastructure projects.
Two senators have contributed to the search by suggesting an increase of the federal gas tax.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday proposed raising the federal fuel tax by 12 cents over a two-year period, the Associated Press reports.
The 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax provides the majority of the HTF’s revenue, but it hasn’t been raised since 1993.
The proposed plan would increase the gas tax by 6 cents per gallon each year for two years and, according to the Washington Post, would be indexed to inflation.
AP reports that the tax hikes would be offset by other tax cuts.
This is not the first time a tax hike has been proposed. In 2010, Sen. Tom Carper tried to raise fuel tax levels. He said he continues to support a gas tax increase.
“I still believe that re-establishing the purchasing power of the fuel tax is the best policy for funding our federal transportation program,” Carper said in a prepared statement. “I am glad to see that this idea is gaining more bipartisan support as Congress continues to grapple with the need to shore up the Highway Trust Fund before it becomes insolvent this summer.”
Additionally, just in the past year, other industry leaders have also pushed for a gas tax increase. In October, Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggested a 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike; less than a week later, Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also called for an increased gas tax; and in December, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced a bill that would have raised the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon.
Those plans have been met with opposition. Washington Post reports that the Obama administration has cited a fragile economic recovery, while members of Congress have looked elsewhere for funding sources in the midst of midterm elections.
However, many professionals the transportation industry have praised the proposal.
American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President and CEO Pete Ruane noted that the association supports “the common sense, fiscally-sound and bipartisan proposal” at a time when the HTF faces a deficit of $16 billion each year.
“It is time to stop pretending this problem will solve itself,” Ruane said in a prepared statement. “Senators Murphy and Corker have provided one potential path forward.”
Randall Over, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) added that the proposal is “an encouraging step to improve our economy and raise the grades on the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure.”
Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ Union of North America (LIUNA), said the union applauds the progress brought forth with the proposal.
“It’s time to end the ‘pothole penalty’ – the lost lives, accidents and damage to vehicles caused by poor roads and deficient and obsolete bridges,” O’Sullivan said in a prepared statement. “Congress now has multiple, viable options to work with to address our crumbling transportation infrastructure and they should feel compelled to do so.”
James Corless, director of Transportation for America (T4America), added that the proposal champions “a long-term solution that recognizes the gravity of the situation and addresses it head-on.”