Federal Gas Tax Hike on Front Burner?

Five-cent increase "essential," says House Transportation Committee chairman
WASHINGTON -- Sentiment is growing at the federal level that raising the gasoline tax by at least five cents a gallon and indexing it to inflation is vital to getting long-delayed projects off the ground, reported The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. But for now, the hard part is just getting an audience in Congress, the report said.

The Obama administration favors reforming transportation fundingand increasing investment in new projects such as high-speed railbut wants to delay the matter by 18 months, said the report. Members of the House Transportation & Infrastructure [image-nocss] Committee are balking at that delay and demanding a debate now.

U.S. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), a committee member, predicted that new highway funding sources would be made available "in the next couple of months." One possibility is another round of stimulus money for transportation projects. "We have finally gotten the Senate and the administration to understand that transportation is key, and it's bipartisan," Brown said Monday after giving a speech to Irving leaders, according to the newspaper.U.S. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), the committee's chairman, has said during previous visits to Dallas-Fort Worth that a gasoline tax increase of at least five cents would be essential, said the report. Oberstar is the author of a six-year transportation bill (H.R. 3617, the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009), introduced in June, that, if approved by Congress, would authorize spending $550 billion on transportation needsand would double the amount available for new road work, the report said.

Oberstar has said funding for the six-year program would fall about $140 billion short if the 18.4-cent federal tax remains the same, added a report by The Star-Ledger in New Jersey.

The 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gasoline tax has not been increased since 1993.

"The maintenance and improvement of our transportation infrastructure has fallen well behind our needs," Oberstar said, according to the report. "An increase in the tax that funds these projects is long overdue."

Meanwhile, there is also a growing push for a state gasoline tax increase of 10 cents per gallon in Texas, said the Star-Telegram. The current level of 20 cents per gallon has not been changed since 1991. Governor Rick Perry opposes the increase, the paper said.

Click herefor the full text of H.R. 3617.

Click herefor a Heritage Foundation report on Oberstar's transportation plan.

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