The chair of the House Transportation Committee had barely released his call for an increase in the federal gas tax to fund bridge repair when President Bush stated he would oppose it, claiming not more money but better priorities is the answer.
From SF Examiner: "Oberstar proposes gas tax increase for bridges"
"House Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar proposed a temporary gas tax increase of 5 cents a gallon Wednesday, which would pay for a new trust fund to repair, replace and rehabilitate structurally deficient bridges on the National Highway System.
The trust fund would be modeled on the federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for building and repairing roads and bridges through the gasoline tax. Money in the new trust fund could not be used for any other purpose than bridges.
At a news conference announcing the plan just upstream from the bridge collapse site, Oberstar said he was confident he could get support from the Bush administration."
From NYT: "Bush Opposes Raising Gas Tax for Bridge Repairs"
However, on Thursday morning at his press conference, President Bush was quick to nix any such increase "at least until Congress changes the way it spends highway money."
''The way it seems to have worked is that each member on that (Transportation) committee gets to set his or her own priorities first,'' Bush said. ''That's not the right way to prioritize the people's money. Before we raise taxes, which could affect economic growth, I would strongly urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities.''
However, "about $24 billion, or 8 percent of the last $286 billion highway bill, was devoted to highway and bridge projects singled out by lawmakers. The balance is distributed through grants to states, which decide how it will be spent. Federal money accounts for about 45 percent of all infrastructure spending.
More than 70,000 of the nation's bridges are rated structurally deficient, including the bridge that collapsed over the Mississippi River last Wednesday. The American Society of Civil Engineers says repairing them all would require spending at least $9.4 billion a year for 20 years. Oberstar says his tax-increase proposal would raise about $25 billion over three years."
From NYT: "Bridge Collapse Revives Issue of Road Spending"
"In the past two years, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota twice vetoed legislation to raise the state's gas tax to pay for transportation needs.
Now, with at least five people dead in the collapse of the Interstate 35W Bridge here, Mr. Pawlenty, a Republican, appears to have had a change of heart."
"He's open to that," Brian McClung, a spokesman for the governor, said Monday of a higher gas tax. "He believes we need to do everything we can to address this situation and the extraordinary costs."
From SF Examiner, "Oberstar proposes gas tax increase for bridges":
"If you're not prepared to invest another five cents in bridge reconstruction and road reconstruction," Oberstar said, "then God help you."