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Senators introduce bill to raise fuel tax to prop up Highway Trust Fund

Sen. Chris Murphy said for too long Congress has shied away from doing something about the nation's infrastructure. (The Trucker file photo)

The Trucker News Services

6/18/2014

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Wednesday unveiled what the two lawmakers called the first bipartisan proposal to shore up the Highway Trust Fund by making changes to the federal motor fuels tax, which funds improvements to roads, bridges and transit systems.

The proposal would create a long-term, stable funding mechanism for the Highway Trust Fund and enact tax relief for American families and businesses, they said.

“For too long, Congress has shied away from taking serious action to update our country’s aging infrastructure,” Murphy said. “We’re currently facing a transportation crisis that will only get worse if we don’t take bold action to fund the Highway Trust Fund. By modestly raising the federal gas tax, we can address a crippling economic liability for this country—the inability to finance long-term improvements to our crumbling national infrastructure. I know raising the gas tax isn’t an easy choice, but we’re not elected to make easy decisions – we’re elected to make the hard ones. This modest increase will pay dividends in the long run and I encourage my colleagues to get behind this bipartisan proposal.”

Corker said growing up in Tennessee as a conservative, he’d learned that if something was important enough to have, it was important enough to pay for.

“That’s how we’ve governed in the Volunteer State, which has resulted in the second best transportation system in the country without having one penny of road debt,” he said. “In Washington, far too often, we huff and puff about paying for proposals that are unpopular, yet throw future generations under the bus when public pressure mounts on popular proposals that have broad support. Congress should be embarrassed that it has played chicken with the Highway Trust Fund and allowed it to become one of the largest budgeting failures in the federal government. If Americans feel that having modern roads and bridges is important then Congress should have the courage to pay for it.”

The American Trucking Association was quick to hail the proposal.

“We have long said that the fuel tax is the fairest, most efficient way to fund our nation’s infrastructure and this practical, bipartisan proposal put forward by Senators Murphy and Corker would put the Highway Trust Fund on the path to solvency and provide the revenues we need to maintain a 21st Century transportation network,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said.

The Murphy-Corker proposal would raise the fuel tax six cents a year over two years, then index the tax to the Consumer Price Index in order to retain its purchasing power. The fuel tax has not been raised since 1993, over which time the revenue it generates has lost nearly half its buying power.

“ATA believes a well-funded, well-maintained transportation system is essential for safety and for economic growth,” said ATA Chairman Phil Byrd, president of Bulldog Hiway Express. “While we have been looking for acceptable alternatives to the fuel tax, we believe it is still the best way to generate the revenue we need to repair and maintain our roads and bridges.”

 “This spring, ATA endorsed a package of funding options – including indexing the fuel tax – to bolster infrastructure investment,” said former ATA Chairman Dan England, chairman of C.R. England and of the ATA task force that crafted the association’s highway funding options. “We are pleased to see Sens Corker and Murphy step forward with a bold vision on how to address our infrastructure needs and we encourage the House and Senate to quickly adopt their proposal.”

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

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