Infrastructure & Environment

Governors Call for Gas Tax Hike to Drive Up Highway Funding

July 14, 2014
 

Governors from both parties voiced incredulity over an impasse in Washington that has jeopardized spending on roads and bridges, calling on lawmakers to come up with the sort of long-term solution that was commonplace in less partisan times.

Some governors at their summer meeting here, both Democrats and Republicans, said Congress should consider increasing the gas tax to provide a more reliable revenue stream for the Highway Trust Fund. They also called for finding ways to ensure that electric and fuel-efficient vehicles help pay the costs of maintaining the nation's roads.

The trust fund is financed mostly by diesel and gasoline taxes that haven't increased since 1993 even as fuel economy has improved for most new vehicles, leaving the government without enough money to cover its share of spending on road repairs and highway construction. The gas tax stands at 18.4 cents a gallon and the diesel tax is 24.4 cents a gallon.

The measure with the best chance of passage at this point is legislation from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) that would provide funding through May 2015.

That would be the shortest patch for the fund in years—a reality that rankled governors attending the National Governors Association summer meeting.

"It's stupid is what it is," said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat. "If you can fix it for [the spring of 2015] why can't you fix it for a longer period of time? It's brinkmanship."

Since 2008, Congress has dealt with shortfalls in the trust fund by transferring $54 billion from the Treasury's coffers. But that approach forces temporary fixes, and some governors said it is difficult to plan major road projects when funding is assured for less than a year.

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