Two senators are suggesting a fuel-tax increase to help dwindle down deficit spending and support the next long-term highway bill, but one representative has dropped a strong hint that he will oppose such a measure.
Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) submitted a letter to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform proposing a 25-cent-per-gallon increase in the federal gas tax. The spike would be rolled out over three years, and Carper and Voinovich believe it will raise $200 billion over five years. Under the move, 15 cents of the gallon increase would be linked to the Highway Trust Fund, while the remaining sum would be directed toward deficit reduction.
“The issue of transportation investment is directly linked to balancing the federal budget,” leading transportation associations said in a release on the proposal. “Without new Highway Trust Fund revenue, policymakers will be forced either to impose highway and transit program cuts that would reduce payrolls and impede economic growth, or add an estimated $34 billion over the next six years to general-fund spending. Either outcome undermines efforts to balance the budget. It is also important to recognize that a small number of transportation programs are currently funded with general funds, and those programs meet important needs and should be continued.”
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), however, has said repeatedly that he opposes any raise in the federal gas tax. Mica will be the new chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and favors such measures as public-private partnerships and infrastructure banks to beef up the Highway Trust Fund.
President Barack Obama believes the passage of a new six-year highway bill is one area where Democrats and Republicans can come together and reach an agreement. Many believe his $50 billion transportation plan, announced during the Labor Day holiday, will front-load the next long-term bill.