Bipartisan proposal would increase fuel taxes to shore up Highway Trust Fund

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 6/19/2014

A Republican and Democrat in the U.S. Senate are teaming up to promote a federal fuel-tax increase to pay for transportation. They say bold action is needed to shore up the Highway Trust Fund and prevent it from going broke.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., announced their intention to pursue a 6-cent increase to gas and diesel taxes in 2015 and another 6-cent increase in 2016 to a total of 12 cents. After that, federal fuel taxes would be indexed to keep up with the rate of inflation.

“In Washington, far too often, we huff and puff about paying for proposals that are unpopular, yet throw future generations under the bus when public pressure mounts on popular proposals that have broad support,” Corker said in a joint statement.

“Congress should be embarrassed that it has played chicken with the Highway Trust Fund and allowed it to become one of the largest budgeting failures in the federal government,” Corker said. “If Americans feel that having modern roads and bridges is important, then Congress should have the courage to pay for it.”

Murphy announced he would pursue a fuel-tax increase during a recent news conference in his home state about the need to repair and replace aging roads and bridges.

“By modestly raising the federal gas tax, we can address a crippling economic liability for this country – the inability to finance long-term improvements to our crumbling national infrastructure,” Murphy said in the joint statement.

“I know raising the gas tax isn’t an easy choice, but we’re not elected to make easy decisions; we’re elected to make the hard ones,” Murphy said. “This modest increase will pay dividends in the long run, and I encourage my colleagues to get behind this bipartisan proposal.”

The federal diesel tax is at 24.4 cents per gallon and the federal gasoline tax is at 18.4 cents per gallon – unchanged since 1993.

Corker and Murphy said the money paid into the Highway Trust Fund can purchase only 63 percent of what it did back in 1993 due to inflation and cost of materials. They said their proposal would restore the purchasing power and keep up with inflation.

The average motorist pays approximately $95 in federal gas taxes. By comparison, the OOIDA Foundation estimates that an owner-operator trucker who buys 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel pays about $4,880 in taxes.

OOIDA supports the fuel tax as the fairest and most equitable form of funding for transportation. However, the Association insists that road and bridge money stay with roads and bridges and not be diverted to other uses.

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