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Will This Bipartisan House Bill to Index the Gas Tax Succeed?

The Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act is taken seriously in Congress. With 17 bipartisan co-sponsors, it would index the gas tax to inflation, thus increasing the Highway Trust Fund revenue and bridging to a sustainable revenue source.
April 21, 2015, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Four members of Congress may be on to something. The 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax has not been hiked since 1993, leaving a shortfall of $16 billion between gas tax receipts and Highway Trust Fund expenditures. Indexing the gas tax in January 2016 would result in an increase, though by just how much is not specified. Cosponsors have grown to 17 from both parties.

"We refuse to pass on the liability of our deteriorating roads and bridges to our children and grandchildren," state the bill's sponsors, Reps. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) in a press release. "The longer we wait to fix our crumbling infrastructure, the more it will cost in the long-run.”

"The lawmakers who are sponsoring the proposal said their measure would give members more time to debate new transportation funding proposals that have been suggested, which include relying on taxes that would be collected by imposing new levies on corporate profits that are stored overseas," writes Keith Laing for The Hill. Hence the name of the bill, "Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act [HR 1846]"

Similar to the above business tax reform measure favored by President Obama is the repatriation tax such as the one advocated by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

The bill has already gained the support of many in the government, transportation and business communities - see two press releases available under "related links" and 32 pages of support letters included as an attachment [PDF] to Rep. Jim Renacci's April 16th press release.

"The sponsors of the measure said Thursday that it would generate $27.5 billion that can be used to pay for nearly two years' worth of transportation projects and give lawmakers time to find a new infrastructure funding source to replace the gas tax," writes Laing. The current 18.4-cents gas tax, 24.4-cent diesel tax, plus additional federal excise taxes contribute $34 billion annually to the Highway Trust Fund. 

While Laing writes that the bill would increase the gas tax, I did not spot by how much.

This legislation also provides the impetus for Congress to enact a long-term plan by establishing a bipartisan, bicameral commission for identifying sustainable funding going forward, including a ‘trigger’ for a gas tax increase if no action is taken.” 

The measure would automatically increase the gas tax again in three years if lawmakers have not adopted the panel’s recommendations by then. 

Recent attempt to increase the federal gas tax, include indexing for inflation include the Corker-Murphy Plan in the Senate, and bills by Oregon Democrat Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio. Unfortunately, they don't appear to have made headway. Will the Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act prove to be the exception?

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Published on Thursday, April 16, 2015 in The Hill
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