A bipartisan pair of House Representatives invoked the spirit of conservative champion Ronald Reagan to push for a fuel tax increase to revive the Highway Trust Fund.
Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Tom Petri, R-Wis., called for passage of a bill to raise the tax and quoted from Reagan’s call to do the same.
“We simply cannot allow this magnificent [Interstate] system to deteriorate beyond repair,” Reagan said in 1982 in a radio address on the need for the tax hike. “Common sense tells us that it’ll cost a lot less to keep the system we have in good repair than to let it crumble and then have to start all over again. Good tax policy decrees that wherever possible a fee for a service should be assessed against those who directly benefit from that service.”
Less than two months later Reagan signed the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, which raised the gasoline tax from 4 cents to 9 cents a gallon.
Blumenauer has introduced a bill that would raise gasoline and diesel taxes by 15 cents over three years and index it to inflation.
Petri, who is retiring from Congress this year, said he is cosponsoring Blumenauer’s bill “because we need a first-rate transportation system and the responsible thing to do is pay for it.”
American Trucking Associations joined a chorus of support for the bill.
“Underinvestment in highways is an enormous burden on the trucking industry, raising the cost of moving freight and undermining the reliability of a logistics system that is critical to our nation’s competitiveness,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves in a statement.
“ATA continues its call for additional investment in highway projects made possible by this new revenue will significantly improve the safety, reliability and efficiency of the trucking industry, to the benefit of all Americans.”
There is some support for a fuel tax hike in the Senate – Democrat Tom Carper of Delaware is a proponent – but it would be a heavy lift in this lame duck session of Congress. The tax committees have not held hearings and Congress is struggling even to pass funding legislation for federal programs through the rest of the fiscal year.