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Congressmen differ greatly on raising fuel taxes

The Congressional Budget Office projected last year that a new six-year transportation bill would require $100 billion in new revenue in addition to the $34 billion per year that is expected to be brought in by the current gas and diesel tax.

The Trucker Staff

2/13/2014

WASHINGTON — One lawmaker says there is support to raise the federal gasoline tax. Another says cut it, no — slash it.

Speaking at a “Safe Routes to Everywhere” event at the Capitol on Tuesday morning, Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., said that an increase in the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax "resonates" with a lot of people involved with transportation funding issues.

Lawmakers, he said, have been hearing from truckers who are volunteering to pay higher taxes on diesel gasoline to help improve the condition of the roads they drive on.

Meanwhile, speaking to an audience at the Heritage Action for American conservation policy summit here Monday, Rep. Tom Graves, R-Fla., said his plan would cut the federal gas tax from 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents per gallon and that states would then make up the difference in any manner they chose. This would include replacing the gas tax, putting in toll roads and creating a new consumption tax such as the special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST), a financing method for funding capital outlay projects in the state of Georgia.

Petri noted that during a Congressional hearing, the American Trucking Associations testified the federation was not in the business of raising costs for its members or making life more difficult for its members, but said it supported raising the diesel fuel tax “because they wanted to have a first-rate, efficient transportation system."

ATA supports a federal highway program that is financed primarily by user fees and is a long-time supporter of the fuel tax as the primary source of revenue for highway improvements. The federation is opposed to the tolling of existing highways, weight-distance taxes and vehicle miles traveled fees.

"It would cost them if they didn't," Petri said of trucking’s stance on increasing the federal gas and diesel tax. "They looked at all the different alternatives as the way to fund the system, and they thought the fairest way would be to do that. That resonates with people.”

The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said recently that he was opposed to increasing the gas tax, but Petri said on Tuesday that "everything was on the table.

"We haven't raised it since 1993," he said. "We don't like it. ... We're looking for a reliable, credible way of funding a six-year bill. Until we do, we may not have a six-year bill."

As for what he believes is wrong with the federal gas tax, Graves said the feds spend too much on non-road improvements such as beautification. He’s all for bike lanes, but says those decisions should be made at the local level.

“Potholes and unfixed roads are there today because in many cases your tax dollars never come back to your states,” Graves said.

Georgia in the past has been a “donor state,” providing more to the federal government in gas tax dollars than it gets back in road money. But since 2007, the federal government has made sure all states get more transportation money back from the feds than the gas taxes they put in, by taking money from the general fund for the highway trust fund.

The Congressional Budget Office projected last year that a new six-year transportation bill would require $100 billion in new revenue in addition to the $34 billion per year that is expected to be brought in by the current gas tax.

The current transportation bill, which is scheduled to expire in September, contains only enough money for two years of transportation spending at a level of approximately $54 billion per year.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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