Transportation funding talks remain stagnant

The debate over transportation funding continues as MAP-21’s expiration date—September 2014—inches closer and closer.

Congressional discussions about how to increase funding are seemingly going nowhere, Politico reported.

While transportation funding, particularly the Highway Trust Fund, continues to decrease, ideas about an increase in the gas tax (which has remained stagnant since its 18.4-cent-per-gallon raise in 1993) are shot down by both Democrats and Republicans.

MAP-21, which Congress reauthorized in July 2012, raised enough money to maintain the status quo, but the two-year bill only served as a temporary solution.

Now transportation stakeholders hope that discussions about fixing the national debt and deficit will lead to talks about raising the gas tax, though that hasn’t happened yet.

The Obama administration, which has repeatedly stated that it has no intention of raising the gas tax, raised questions last year when it used President Barack Obama’s budget to plan a reauthorization proposal rather than creating a formal reauthorization proposal.

Obama’s proposal suggested using the peace dividend—money saved from withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, to partially fund transportation spending. However, that idea has not been popular in Congress.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s staff is set to start drafting a new bill later this year; Shuster has repeatedly said lawmakers need to consider all funding options, including the gas tax. Tolls may also be an option, thanks to Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, whose success in replacing part of Virginia’s gas tax with a sales-tax increase may lead to broader discussions about alternative funding sources.