Federal panel could recommend fuel tax increase

| 1/10/2008

A federal panel chaired by U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters is set to release recommendations for future transportation funding. Some people believe the report will include a recommendation to federal lawmakers to increase federal fuel taxes.

The 12-member National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, created in 2005 as part of the highway reauthorization bill known as SAFETEA-LU, is scheduled to announce its recommendations on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Trucking and transportation officials and others are anxious to get their hands on the report.

The Bloomberg news agency, citing an un-named source close to the report, has declared that the “gas tax” of 18.4 cents would increase between 5 cents and 8 cents per gallon, per year, for five years.

Truckers know that a mention of a “gas tax” by mainstream media often actually means “fuel tax” and includes diesel. The current federal tax on diesel fuel is 24.4 cents per gallon.

Officials from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said they will wait to comment on the report once it is in their hands.

“Aside from what may come out in the report, I doubt anyone will be talking about or pushing for a fuel tax increase until next year, or at least after the elections,” said OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Rod Nofziger.

Private investors are also interested in learning what the report says because Transportation Secretary Peters is an advocate of outsourcing and privatization of highway infrastructure.

OOIDA officials continue to oppose the privatization of existing highways and the conversion of existing highways into toll roads.

Members of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission include Secretary Peters; Maria Cino, former deputy Secretary of U.S. DOT; Patrick Quinn, Co-Chairman of U.S. Xpress and former chairman of the American Trucking Association; Frank Busalacchi, secretary of transportation for Wisconsin; Rick Geddes, director of undergraduate studies for Cornell University; Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Frank McArdle, senior advisor with the General Contractors Association of America; Matt Rose, CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad; Jack Schenendorf, general counsel for Covington & Burling; Tom Skancke, CEO of The Skancke Company; and Paul Weyrich, CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

To learn more about the commission, click here.

– By David Tanner, staff writer