Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., is a longtime supporter of raising federal fuel taxes to pay for highways and will float that idea with his colleagues as they draft the next highway bill.

Carper sees a gradual fuel tax increase as a fiscally responsible approach to highway funding but is open to other ideas as well, according to his office.

“If we think it’s important to have roads that are in good shape, bridges that are not about to collapse, that our highways are efficient and in good condition, then it’s worth paying for,” Carper told The News Journal of Delaware.

“If we’re not willing to pay for those things, we frankly shouldn’t have them.”

Carper is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which is responsible for funding the highway bill now being drafted in the Senate. Carper also chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which will draft the policy portion of the highway bill in the next month or so.

The Finance Committee has not yet held hearings on funding. Carper plans on talking to members on and off the committee over the coming months and will mention the fuel tax increase as a possible approach. His aim is to find the proposal or combination of proposals that will pay for a multi-year bill and can pass the Senate and House, according to his office.

Carper supported a fuel tax increase to pay for the current highway program, MAP-21, but that idea went nowhere.

Unless Congress acts the Highway Trust Fund will run dry by late August or early September, according to the Department of Transportation.