Shuster rules out gas tax hike for highway funding; LaHood continues push for 10-cent gas tax hike

Rep. Bill ShusterRep. Bill Shuster

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has has pulled a federal gas tax hike off the table of options for transportation funding.

Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said Tuesday at an event hosted by Building America’s Future (BAF) and Bloomberg Government that “economically, it’s not the time” to increase the fuel tax, The Hill reports.

At the TCC Fly-In in July, Shuster said all options for transportation infrastructure funding are “on the table” for discussion. But now, as the September expiration date for the current bill nears, Shuster is narrowing options. (Though, as Politico notes, he isn’t in charge of funding — the House Ways and Means Committee is. Shuster is, however, a big influencer.)

Shuster told event attendees on Tuesday that he doesn’t think a gas tax hike will garner enough support.

“I just don’t believe the American people have the will out there, in the public or in Congress, even our president has said we’re not going to do that,” Shuster said. “We’ve got to figure out a different way at this point in time.”

Shuster also said there are other ways to raise transportation funds.

“In talking with members of the Ways and Means Committee and the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, there are things that we can do to save money in other areas and invest the money in the transportation system,” Shuster added.

Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHoodFormer U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

However, former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood offered a different opinion.

LaHood told event attendees that a gas tax hike would be the easiest way to raise transportation funds.

“Nothing is going to create the kind of money that increasing the gas tax and indexing does,” LaHood said. “And then use tolling, raise TIFIA [the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act], do more TIGER [Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery] money, do all of these things. But only do it after you replenish the fund that has built America and put America back to work.”

LaHood suggested a 10-cent increase in the gas tax, adding that lawmakers need consider indexing the gas tax to account for future inflation rates. (He introduced the idea of a 10-cent gas tax increase at a transportation forum in October.)

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LaHood also said a six-year bill, rather than a two-year bill, is also necessary — an idea that he and Shuster agree on.

The gas tax has remained the same since 1993. It funds the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is projected to deplete at the end of the fiscal year in September.