Bush might veto highway bill if it includes fuel tax boost

| Friday, June 13, 2003

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 service reported.

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.

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