The Bush administration
sharpened its opposition June 12 to higher gasoline taxes to pay for highway
programs, with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta warning that the
White House might veto highway-spending legislation to enforce its position, Reuters news
Mineta told reporters
at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that the administration was committed
to lowering taxes and that its record $247 billion, six-year highway proposal
was sufficient to maintain the nation's roads, bridges and tunnels, and
meet mass transit needs.
"I want to be very,
very clear, President Bush and I oppose the imposition of costly new fuel
taxes on the American people," Mineta said.
House and Senate lawmakers
are pushing for between $270 billion and $375 billion in highway spending
over six years beginning next fiscal year. The current highway program
expires Sept. 30.
Some powerful lawmakers
have proposed raising the gas tax while others say indexing it to inflation
each year might raise enough extra revenue.
Asked whether Bush would
veto the highway bill if it contained a gas tax increase, Mineta said
the White House has raised that possibility with congressional leaders
in the past 10 days. But Mineta added it’s still early in the legislative
process and things could change.
Neither chamber has
approved a highway bill, but action is expected this summer on a full-six
year reauthorization or a smaller bill that would fund programs for one
or two years.