Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., recently introduced a bill that would increase the federal fuel tax by 25 cents and eventually replace it with something else. While some applaud the move, other groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association are cautious of what it could mean later.
On Tuesday, May 21, Rep. Blumenauer introduced HR2864, informally known as the Rebuild America Act of 2019. Blumenauer’s bill wants to increase the fuels tax by 5 cents a year over five years then index the tax to inflation. Under the proposal, the federal diesel tax will increase from 24.3 cents to 49.3 cents.
The bill also puts Congress on the hook to find a more equitable and stable funding source to replace the fuel tax. That replacement will need to be established within 10 years after the bill is signed into law.
“The gas tax was last raised more than 25 years ago, which means we are paying for our 2019 infrastructure needs with 1993 dollars. That is unacceptable,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “Our nation’s infrastructure is falling apart as we fall behind our global competitors. The cost of underinvestment falls especially hard on working families and low-income individuals who can’t afford the cost of a blown tire or lost wages due to congestion. It is past time that we get real about funding our infrastructure needs, we can’t afford inaction any longer.”
Some groups were quick to embrace the bill, including the American Trucking Associations and Natso, the association representing truck stops.
However, OOIDA was not so quick to throw its support behind the bill. While the Association’s stated position is that a fuel tax is the most equitable way to fund infrastructure, the bill asks Congress to eventually replace it with something else. A replacement for the fuel tax is mostly likely to be a vehicle miles traveled tax, a funding mechanism OOIDA believes could hit truckers harder than other motorists.
HR2864 states that Congress believes that by 2029 the fuel tax should be repealed and replaced with a more sustainable, stable funding source. During congressional hearings regarding infrastructure, the ideal of establishing a federal VMT tax has been tossed out numerous times without much criticism from lawmakers.
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