U.S. Senate bill would increase fuel taxes to pay for transportation

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 8/11/2015

Taxes on gasoline and diesel have funded federal highways and bridges since Dwight Eisenhower was president. But it’s been 22 years since the taxes were last increased by an act of Congress. A U.S. senator has introduced a bill that would increase fuel taxes by 4 cents a gallon for each of the next four years to fix up and modernize transportation infrastructure.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., a prominent member of two Senate committees, has filed bills to increase fuel taxes in the past. On Thursday, Aug. 6, he announced the TRAFFIC Relief Act of 2015, to increase fuel taxes by 16 cents over four years to combat and offset years of inflation and a Highway Trust Fund plagued by inaction and a lack of new funding sources. The proposal would index fuel taxes to the rate of inflation after four years and would make permanent a pair of earned income tax credits.

“The trust fund we use to pay for our roads, highways, bridges, and transit systems has been broken and has needed fixing since 2008, but Congress can’t seem to get the job done,” Carper said in a statement.

“America has funded transportation systems, including the entire Interstate Highway System, with the gas tax for 83 years. Inflation, fuel-efficient cars, and other factors mean we don’t take in as much money as we used to, yet the need to maintain and improve our transportation systems hasn’t dropped. In fact, most experts argue we need to be doing more.”

Carper’s fuel tax proposal was not included in a six-year transportation reauthorization bill known as the DRIVE Act, Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act, passed by the Senate in late July. Nor was it part of a counter measure by the House of Representatives to extend current transportation funding and programs by three months through late October.

But it is on the table for consideration as the two chambers work to reconcile a future final version of a multiyear transportation bill.

Carper is a prominent Democrat on both the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Finance Committee.

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