Reps using former President Reagan to push for gas tax increase

819px-Official_Portrait_of_President_Reagan_1981A bipartisan pair of House members are attempting to build support for a federal gas tax increase by using former President Ronald Reagan.

The tax was increased in 1982, or two years into the Reagan administration. The move has remained extremely popular among conservatives, and it has not changed since 1993 – four years after Reagan left office.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Tom Petri (R-Wis.) used Reagan support for the gas tax increase in 1982 to help spotlight their support for a modern-day gas tax increase during a press conference on Wednesday.

“I am co-sponsoring Rep. Blumenauer’s bill because we need a first-rate transportation system and the responsible thing to do is pay for it,” Petri said at the conference.

In the days leading up to the conference, Blumenauer and Petri to make their pitch for a higher gas tax.

“Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Republican Congressman Tom Petri will stand together on the one year anniversary of Blumenauer’s introduction of the UPDATE Act (HR 3636), which would increase the gas tax by fifteen cents over 3 years and tie it to inflation,” the lawmakers offices released in a statement.

“The two Congressmen will be joined by the words and image of former President Ronald Reagan, who spoke eloquently on the need for Congress to raise the gas tax in 1982,” the statement continued. “At that point, Congress did raise the gas tax, and did again in 1993, but has not done so in the subsequent 21 years, leaving it with greatly diminished purchasing power. Blumenauer and Petri will speak on the need for Congress to immediately enact this modest increase to adjust for modern times, and on the necessity of repairing our nation’s crumbling transportation infrastructure.”

The current gas tax pre-dates the development of the Interstate Highway System and no longer provides enough cash to maintain or improve the country’s transportation infrastructure. The current level of federal transportation spending is estimated at around $50 billion per year, but the current gas tax only brings in around $34 billion a year.

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Congress recently failed to agree on a long-term transportation funding bill, but they did approve a temporary extension that will continue to fund projects until May 2015.