Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) is introducing legislation that would nearly double the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax to help pay for road and transit projects around the nation.
Carper’s bill would increase the gas tax by 4 cents per year for the next four years, resulting in a 16-cents-per-gallon increase by 2020. The legislation would offer tax credits to offset the impact of the gas tax hikes on drivers, according to Carper’s office.
The Delaware senator said the failure of Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill this summer showed it is time to raise the gas tax, which has not been increased since 1993.
“At a time when gas prices are some of the lowest we’ve seen in recent memory, we should be willing to make the hard choice to raise the federal gas tax,” Carper continued. “To balance the 16-cent cost of a gas tax hike, I’ve suggested making permanent certain expiring tax cuts that will directly benefit hard-working Americans.”
Under Carper’s legislation, known as the TRAFFIC Relief Act, drivers would ultimately pay 34 cents per gallon in federal gas taxes, in addition to state taxes.
Transportation advocates have pushed for a gas tax increase for years to close an approximately $16 billion annual shortfall in infrastructure funding that has developed as cars have grown more fuel efficient.
The current tax of 18.4 cents per gallon brings in about $34 billion per year. The federal government typically spends approximately $50 billion in funding per year, which transportation advocates have said is barely enough to cover the repair needs of the current U.S. infrastructure system.
The shortfall has resulted in Congress failing to pass a transportation funding bill that lasts longer than two years since 2005.
If the gas tax were to have been indexed to inflation since it was enacted in 1993, drivers would be paying about 30 cents per gallon on their gasoline purchases now.
Carper said the repeated highway spending patches have shown there is no better solution to the transportation funding problem than increasing the gas tax.
“The trust fund we use to pay for our roads, highways, bridges, and transit systems has been broken and has needed fixing since 2008, but Congress can’t seem to get the job done,” he said.
“America has funded transportation systems, including the entire Interstate Highway System, with the gas tax for 83 years,” Carper continued. “Inflation, fuel-efficient cars, and other factors mean we don’t take in as much money as we used to, yet the need to maintain and improve our transportation systems hasn’t dropped. In fact, most experts argue we need to be doing more.”
By Keith Laing