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Presidential contender Delaney proposes raising the gas tax

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John Delaney became the first candidate in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election to propose raising the federal gasoline tax to pay for infrastructure.

Delaney, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, represented Maryland’s 6th congressional district from 2013 to 2019. One of 24 Democrats who have joined the race so far, he released a $2 trillion infrastructure proposal on May 29 that would be “fully paid for” largely by increasing the size of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), including a one-time boost to the fund of $200 billion.

According to Delaney’s proposal, the federal gas tax would be retroactively indexed to inflation, and the corporate tax rate would be raised from the current 21 percent to 27 percent. The current federal excise tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. They were last raised in 1993 and are not indexed to inflation, which increased by a total of 73 percent from 1993 until 2018.

Delaney claims his plan would raise the amount of money in the HTF to $850 billion over the next 10 years, with infrastructure investments from the fund increasing over that time by 50 percent.

The HTF is set to expire, along with the FAST Act, on October 1, 2020, five weeks before the election. Policy experts have become less optimistic that a reauthorization bill can be passed this year.

“There are no easy answers to many of our economic issues but there are simple answers, including launching a massive, job-creating, community-improving infrastructure program to rebuild our roads and bridges, extend rural broadband, improve decaying water systems, and build the advanced energy economy,” Delaney said in launching his plan.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA), by contrast, is looking to generate $340 billion over the next 10 years by increasing the fuel tax by five cents per year for the next four years, for a total 20-cent increase. ATA’s plan would index the tax to both inflation and fuel efficiency improvements with a five percent annual cap.

In addition to raising the gas tax to bolster the HTF, Delaney’s plan creates seven new funds to pay for infrastructure, including a National Infrastructure Bank, a Water Infrastructure Matching Fund and a Climate Resiliency Fund.

Delaney is one of only two Democratic candidates that has unveiled a detailed infrastructure plan. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) issued a $1 trillion infrastructure proposal that would “stabilize” the HTF, calling for a “series of corporate tax reforms” that includes adjusting the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.

Joe Biden, the current frontrunner for the Democrats, makes no mention of infrastructure on his official campaign website.

President Donald Trump’s 2017 plan to leverage $200 billion in federal money to over $1 trillion – which he rolled out after coming into office – never materialized after taking a backseat to other priorities. His latest $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, the funding for which has yet to be hammered out, has been put on hold after Trump cancelled a May 22 meeting at the White House with top Democrats.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.