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American ShipperShippingTrade and Compliance

House Rep. Tom Rice introduces bill to raise gas tax

Legislation would index the gas tax to inflation after the initial $0.10 increase to prevent future transportation funding standoffs in Congress, according to the bill’s sponsor.

   United States House of Representatives member Tom Rice, R-S.C., has introduced a bill that would increase the federal gas tax by $0.10 per gallon, according to reports from online political news outlets The Hill and Politico.
   Rice says his bill would look to minimize the impact of higher prices at the pump on consumers by offsetting the higher gas tax with a $133 income tax credit. He told The Hill in an interview that the legislation would not cost extra money, but would give states “certainty” about the availability of federal transportation funding.
   “We have enough revenue already,” said Rice. “Our measure moves money from the general fund into the Highway Trust Fund. It would raise the gas tax by about 10 cents-per-gallon, which would cost the average driver about $130 per year. It would be offset by a $133 income tax credit, so it’s revenue-neutral.”
   The gas tax hike would go toward funding transportation projects across the country, including the ailing Highway Trust Fund, which will expire at the end of the month without Congressional action. The Department of Transportation has said the HTF will run out of money at the end of July if Congress cannot agree on an extension, but partisan politics have made it difficult for Democrats and Republicans to agree on how to fund a long-term bill.
   Congress has not passed a long-term transportation funding bill since the last one expired in 2005. Since then, there has been an estimated $16 billion a year shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, the primary funding mechanism for highways, bridges and infrastructure projects. The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on transportation projects, but the gas tax only brings in approximately $34 billion annually.
   That is in part because Congress has been reticent to increase the federal gas tax, which has not been raised since 1993 when it was increased to 18.4 cents per gallon. As a result, the HTF is receiving less money each year as cars become more fuel-efficient and inflation has eroded almost 40 percent of the fund’s purchasing power, while the list of transportation projects that desperately need these funds continues to grow.
   In order to fully fund a long-term six-year transportation measure, the federal government would need to come up with about $100 billion in addition to gas tax revenue, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.
   The bill Rice introduced, which would result in drivers paying around 28.4 cents more per gallon at the pump, would index the gas tax to inflation after the initial $0.10 increase in an attempt to prevent future transportation funding standoffs in Congress.
   “I hope we don’t have to have anymore short-term extensions,” Rice told The Hill. “I think it’s very harmful to our country. Infrastructure is vital to our economy and it’s vital to our competitiveness.”

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