Rep. Blumenauer Reintroduces Gas Tax Increase

Feb. 4, 2015
Earl Blumenauer
Earl Blumenauer
Earl Blumenauer

On Feb. 3, Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), with the support of leaders in the fields of transportation, labor, commerce, and construction, introduced HR 680 to allow passage of the first comprehensive, six year transportation bill since 1997.  

HR 680: The Update, Promote, and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act would phase in a nickel a gallon tax increase over each of the next three years on gasoline and diesel. Of all the proposals being circulated on Capitol Hill, this is simplest, easiest to pass, and the only one giving long term stability. Blumenauer will speak with this diverse cross section of groups at a press conference today highlighting the momentum behind such a proposal. As President Reagan said when he led a similar effort in 1982, it won’t increase the deficit or increase taxes due on April 15.  Instead, it will be paid for by the gas tax user fee that has supported the Highway Trust Fund since 1956.

“Every credible independent report indicates that we are not meeting the demands of our stressed and decaying infrastructure system – roads, bridges and transit,” said Blumenauer.  “Congress hasn’t dealt seriously with the funding issue for over 20 years and it’s time to act. The gas tax used to be an efficient road user fee, but with inflation and increased fuel efficiency, especially for some types of vehicles, there is no longer a good relationship between what road users pay and how much they benefit. The average motorist is paying about half as much per mile as they did in 1993. There’s a broad and persuasive coalition that stands ready to support Congress, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National AFL-CIO, the construction and trucking industry, cyclists, professional groups, numerous associations of small and medium businesses, local governments, and transit agencies. We just need to give them something to support.”

In 2011, the Federal Highway Administration estimated that over $70.9 billion worth of repairs were needed just to maintain safe bridges; that number has since increased each year. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that surface transportation in the US needs over $2 trillion of investment in order to remain economically competitive by 2020.

In recent years, Congress has added to the deficit by transferring over $65 billion of General Fund revenue to the Highway Trust Fund to keep it afloat. In order to maintain current funding levels in the following years, the Highway Trust Fund will need over $15 billion a year by 2018 in addition to current gas tax receipts. Continuing down the current path will mean a 33% drop in federal transportation spending by 2024. The UPDATE Act would solve the problem by providing $210 billion over ten years.

“Addressing the infrastructure deficit, stabilizing transportation funding, and helping America’s all-too-slow economic recovery is critical if we want a livable and economically prosperous country in the years to come,” said Blumenauer. “The UPDATE Act will put hundreds of thousands to work at family wage jobs in every state, while improving the environment and quality of life.”