UPDATED -- Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., will introduce bills to raise federal fuel taxes, index them to inflation and test a vehicle-mile tax.
The proposals, which Blumenauer is scheduled to discuss on Capitol Hill Wednesday, come as Congress begins to consider ways to revive funding for U.S. roads and bridges.
The current highway program expires in less than a year, and unless Congress acts the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money by 2015.
“There are already significant funding challenges,” Blumenauer said in a United Transportation Union publication.
“Congress has transferred $55 billion in general fund revenues to the Highway Trust Fund to avoid bankruptcy since 2009. When the current authorization expires, the Highway Trust Fund will require almost $15 billion a year in addition to existing gas tax receipts, merely to maintain 2009 funding levels.”
Blumenauer wants to raise the tax on gasoline and diesel by 15 cents over three years and index the taxes to inflation, said his spokesman, Patrick Malone.
The gas tax is now 18.4 cents a gallon, and diesel is 24.4 cents a gallon.
The Congressman’s proposal has its roots in numerous studies of the highway funding issue, including the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission and the Simpson-Bowles budget reform proposal. Both recommend significant fuel tax increases and indexing as the quickest, most efficient way to address the funding shortfall in the near term.
Business interests including American Trucking Associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce strongly support the idea of increasing fuel taxes to pay for reinvestment in infrastructure.
ATA issued a statement supporting the bill.
"Our support for raising the fuel tax should clearly demonstrate just how critical good roads are for moving freight, commuters, vacationers and shoppers," said Mary Phillips, ATA senior vice president of legislative affairs. "If the users tell Congress 'we support paying more to support our roads,' we hope Congress will listen."
"For years, the trucking industry has been urging someone to put a fuel tax increase on the table, and Congressman Blumenauer's bill does just that," said ATA Chairman Phil Byrd, president of Bulldog Hiway Express, Charleston, S.C. "The fuel tax is our most efficient and effective way of funding the improvements and repairs our highways and bridges so desperately need."
Blumenauer also wants more study of a vehicle-mile tax as a potential supplement or alternative to fuel taxes. As vehicles become more efficient and as alternative fuels come into use, the revenue from traditional fuel taxes declines. A vehicle-mile tax is seen as a possible remedy to that problem.
Updated 10:45 a.m. EST 12/4 to add ATA's comments
Updated 6:00 p.m. EST, 12/4. You can read about other reaction to this legislation by reading an updated story.