Shuster seeks alternatives to raising fuel taxes

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Friday, February 07, 2014

For months, U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., has said all options would be on the table to shore up the Highway Trust Fund. According to recent reports from Capitol Hill, the chairman appears to have crossed off a federal fuel-tax increase.

Shuster, whose chairmanship makes him a key player to draft the next multiyear surface transportation bill due in Congress later this year, said he’s working with the House Ways and Means Committee to resolve the funding issue for the Highway Trust Fund without increasing fuel taxes. The last time fuel taxes were increased was 1993.

The Ways and Means Committee is in charge of drafting the revenue portion of the bill. According to Shuster via media reports, the Ways and Means is studying various tax code reforms and the closing of loopholes to make up the funding shortfall.

About the time the current transportation bill expires, the Highway Trust Fund will be on the verge of a zero balance. It’s been on the verge of being broke a handful of times since 2008, requiring Congress to use general Treasury funds to keep it afloat.

Many members of Congress say they want the next transportation bill to be five or six years in duration. The current program, MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, is a two-year bill that Congress approved in 2012. It is set to expire on Sept. 30.

To fund a six-year bill, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Congress will have to come up with an extra $101 billion in revenue over the current levels to pay for transportation programs. A five-year bill would require $83 billion, a four-year bill $67 billion, and so on.

Shuster’s committee continues to hold hearings to discuss issues for the upcoming bill, and other committees will be joining the fray.

The Environment and Public Works Committee will handle most of the drafting for the Senate version of the bill. The chair of that committee is Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

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