ROADS/BRIDGES: Shuster says gas tax not viable option, declares it dead

March 19, 2015

Committee chairman said Wednesday that Congress lacks the wherewithal to boost the tax

This week, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) stated, on the topic of ongoing transportation funding talks, that Congress will not pass any bill that increases the federal gas tax.

The present at-the-pump tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, which has been in place since 1993, looks to remain at that level, said Shuster, who further delineated what he sees as more viable funding options.

Funding proposals such as repatriation, which relies on taxing overseas corporate revenue, are more politically viable, said the chairman. “I think pretty much everybody in this town has come to the conclusion that repatriation is where the dollars are,” Shuster said during a briefing with reporters at the Capitol Building. “There is no willing in this Congress or in the administration to do anything with adjusting user fees or taxes.”

With the May 31 deadline looming, legislators and transportation industry advocates alike have expressed worry over the possibility of a road and transit shutdown during the height of the summer construction season. 

Shuster characterized the prolonged process of tax discussions as little more than Congressional norm. “The president wants to do tax reform. The House wants to do tax reform. The Senate wants to tax reform,” he said. “They're trying to craft a tax reform bill. That’s where the funding will be address. Folks who've been around here a long time know anything on taxes takes a long time.” 

With the tax reform proposals floundering, legislators have floated the possibility of passing a temporary transportation funding extension, despite adamant and widespread opinion that such a measure is precisely what is not needed. The current transportation bill, a nearly $11 billion measure approved last summer, is set to expire May 31. The U.S. Department of Transportation has made clear that the Highway Trust Fund will dry up by that date unless Congress figures out a way to replenish it. 

“We still have two months,” Shuster said. “I'm going to keep pushing, pushing, pushing until it comes time that we have to do something.” He did concede that an temporary extension was increasingly likely as the funding deadline grows closer.

And so the wheel continues to turn.

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