Republicans to seek additional transportation revenue

| Monday, September 26, 2011

House Republicans put forward a transportation plan in late spring that included a 30 percent reduction in spending. But if Congress can find additional revenue for the Highway Trust Fund in the next surface transportation bill, House leaders would agree to increase spending to match it, sources on Capitol Hill said.

U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee recently received the go-ahead from House leadership to seek additional revenues for the Highway Trust Fund, a spokesman for the committee confirmed.

“We don’t have anything worked out just yet, but we will all look at what the options are,” spokesman Justin Harclerode, told Land Line. “Not increasing the gas tax, that’s one thing we do know, but we’ll look at our other options and see what those are.”

Harclerode said the committee could seek about $15 billion per year. That number would be in addition to the $35 billion that makes it into the Highway Trust Fund from user fees such as gas and diesel taxes, heavy vehicle use taxes, tire taxes and heavy equipment excise taxes.

“Nothing is set in stone. That number is about the difference between the revenues being collected every year in the Highway Trust Fund and the amount of money we’re actually spending ongoing per year,” Harclerode said.

Mica has not discussed where the possible new revenue would come from, and the T&I Committee does not possess the authority to raise taxes or user fees. Those details would have to be worked out and include input from other committees, Harclerode said.

The proposal Mica announced in June called for a six-year billion surface transportation authorization bill that spends only what the Highway Trust Fund takes in. Even with the new plan to find additional funding, that is more or less still the case, Harclerode said.

“We still want to do a bill that is as fiscally responsible as possible,” he said.

U.S. Senate committees are working on a two-year version of the bill costing a total of $109 billion. Senators are currently looking to generate an additional $12 billion per year to avoid spending through deficits.

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