SPECIAL REPORT: Panel recommends federal fuel tax increases

| 1/15/2008

Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2007 – A federal commission is recommending a complete overhaul of the national transportation funding system, starting with a fuel tax increase ranging from 25 cents to 40 cents per gallon, including tolling and congestion pricing, and eventually moving to a mileage-based highway tax.

After reviewing a report issued today by nine members of the 12-member National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission that called for those measures, OOIDA officials said reform of the Highway Trust Fund should include increased accountability for spending.

“They need to show us the money,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “Where it’s going, how it is being used, what are our true national needs, how the system is going to be cleaned top to bottom, and then we’ll talk about paying more.”

“Truckers pay enormous sums into the Highway Trust Fund, contributing as much as 36 percent of it, and they deserve better than just ‘a new beginning’ – which really just means paying even more money.”

Spencer and others call the report a mixed bag for truckers.

On one hand, the commission recommendations preserve the federal role in transportation funding via the Highway Trust Fund, but on the other hand, truckers would pay more for fuel, tolls and other taxes.

“We have to make sure our issues float to the top on this,” OOIDA Senior Government Affairs Representative Mike Joyce told Land Line.

A minority of the commission, including U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, who chaired the commission, issued a dissenting report condemning a fuel-tax increase but promoting tolls and privatization.

Peters and the Bush administration have favored smaller government involvement, increased private-sector investment and tolling along with increased state control of transportation.

Short-term goals in the commission’s report include a fuel-tax increase of between 5 cents and 8 cents per year during a five-year period. Commissioners also recommended that a highway-user tax, based on vehicle miles driven, be implemented by 2025 to replace the fuel tax.

Joyce said the commissioners may have a tough task ahead of them in getting federal lawmakers onboard with a fuel-tax increase in a time of soaring fuel prices.

“Whether this report becomes a doorstop, put on a shelf or is used depends on a lot of people in Washington,” Joyce said. “That voice includes owner-operators and small-business truckers.”

Click here to view the commission’s report.

– By David Tanner, staff writer