Legislation Proposes 15-Cent Fuel Tax Increase

With a major transportation funding shortfall projected for next year, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced legislation on Dec. 4 to increase the federal fuel tax 15-cents per gallon over three years.  Rep. Blumenauer also proposes a study into mileage-based fees to fund transportation. 

Transportation groups, including NATSO, AAA and the American Trucking Associations, have been asking Congress to increase the fuel tax over the last several years.  “Our federal fuel tax rate has been shrinking for decades,” said Lisa Mullings, president and chief executive officer of NATSO. “Since 1993, inflation has eroded the buying power of those 18.4 cents to just 11 cents.” 

The Update, Promote, and Develop America's Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act would phase in an increase to the federal tax, ultimately increasing the tax on gasoline to 33.4 cents per gallon and 42.8 cents on diesel. The current rates have remained unchanged since 1993.

Not only will a fuel tax improve infrastructure, it will help highway-based businesses, Mullings said. “If Congress fails to act, many businesses could pay a big price. Alternatives to a higher federal fuel tax, such as interstate tolling and rest-area commercialization, threaten businesses that serve interstate travelers,” she said.

During a press conference Blumenauer said actually getting a gas tax increase, especially with midterm elections next year, would be a difficult task.

Blumenauer also introduced the Road Usage Fee Pilot Program Act of 2013 that would establish a federal pilot program to study charging drivers based on the number of miles they drive. Several states, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon and Texas, have conducted similar pilots. A vehicle-miles-traveled tax would be a longer-term approach to highway funding, he said.

“We're talking about the gas tax now and a commitment to replace it with something better. I think the road user fee is where we will end up in 10 years and that's why we want to promote exploration of it,” Blumenauer said.

Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
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