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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Two U.S. senators proposed an increase to federal gas taxes Wednesday in an effort to pay for highway and transit programs.
Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) unveiled a bipartisan bill to raise both the federal gas tax and federal diesel tax by 12 cents per gallon each over the next two years, with a six-cent hike taking place each year. The taxes would then be indexed via the Consumer Price Index to keep pace with inflation.
The federal gas tax currently stands at 18.4 cents per gallon, while the federal diesel tax is 24.4 cents per gallon. If implemented, the fuel tax increases would mark the first time this action was taken since 1993.
"For too long, Congress has shied away from taking serious action to update our country’s aging infrastructure,” said Sen. Murphy. “We’re currently facing a transportation crisis that will only get worse if we don’t take bold action to fund the Highway Trust Fund. By modestly raising the federal gas tax, we can address a crippling economic liability for this country -- the inability to finance long-term improvements to our crumbling national infrastructure. I know raising the gas tax isn’t an easy choice, but we’re not elected to make easy decisions -- we’re elected to make the hard ones. This modest increase will pay dividends in the long run and I encourage my colleagues to get behind this bipartisan proposal.”
The federal Highway Trust Fund provides more than half of the country's spending on transportation projects and will begin to run dry in July, likely halting construction of any new transportation projects without action from Congress, according to a joint statement released by the two senators.
"Growing up in Tennessee as a conservative, I learned that if something was important enough to have, it was important enough to pay for. That’s how we’ve governed in the Volunteer State, which has resulted in the second-best transportation system in the country without having one penny of road debt,” said Sen. Corker. “In Washington, far too often, we huff and puff about paying for proposals that are unpopular, yet throw future generations under the bus when public pressure mounts on popular proposals that have broad support. Congress should be embarrassed that it has played chicken with the Highway Trust Fund and allowed it to become one of the largest budgeting failures in the federal government. If Americans feel that having modern roads and bridges is important, then Congress should have the courage to pay for it.”
The proposed bill is receiving outside support. NATSO, the national association representing truck stops and travel centers, and AAA applauded the senators' proposal.
“We commend Sens. Chris Murphy and Bob Corker for introducing legislation that will increase money for infrastructure through the most fair and efficient means possible,” said NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings. “Raising the fuel tax is long overdue, and this is the right solution for both motorists and businesses.”
AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet said the proposal makes tons of sense. "Americans are willing to pay a little more if it means they will have access to better roads, bridges and transit systems,” he said. “It is time for our nation’s leaders to stand with Sen. Murphy, Sen. Corker and others that support improving our country’s transportation system.”