Flying straight in the face of long-standing opposition by the President himself, a draft report from the bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform proposes a 15-cent hike in fuel taxes, beginning in 2013, to sustain the Highway Trust Fund.
ATA favors fuel taxes over tolls or other way of funding essential highway infrastructure projects.
ATA favors fuel taxes over tolls or other way of funding essential highway infrastructure projects.

The commission's two co-chairs, former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former senator Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.), on Wednesday, released a draft proposal of a plan that would bring the deficit down to 2 percent of GDP by 2014, and lower the national debt to 34 percent of GDP by 2040.

Opposition to increasing fuel taxes -- especially with the economy in its weakened state -- goes beyond the White House. Many Republicans on the panel, including the possible next chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, John Mica (R-Fla), would rather see budgets cut in federal programs to cover transportation needs.

A poll taken in April 2010, just before Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman were getting ready to introduce a Senate Bill that would impose dramatically higher gas taxes, showed 7 in 10 Americans were opposed the idea. While Kerry's objective was reducing GHG production, as opposed to the current proposal which is a deficit-cutting measure, 78 percent of those polled said they believe that higher fuel taxes would kill jobs.

While the American Trucking Associations has yet to comment on the Commission's draft proposal, it has in the past expressed support for fuel taxes as a fair and verifiable means of paying for infrastructure.

In July 2009, ATA 2nd Vice-Chair, Barbara Windsor, told the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, that the federal fuel tax remains the most cost-effective way to fund essential highway infrastructure projects.

In her statement on behalf of ATA, she said that an increase in the fuel tax -- with the additional revenue invested in projects and programs that address national highway infrastructure needs -- is by far the best way to ensure sufficient funding for highway projects over the near term.

In addition to the draft proposal's call for a fuel tax increase, committee members recommended boosting fuel taxes on certain short-sea shipping and barge operations, and cutting off funding for the operation of river locks used by barge operators, placing those costs in the operators' laps.

Watch for a more detailed report on how the recent elections might affect the infrastructure debate.

Click here for a bulleted version of the Fiscal Commission's draft report.