As Congress begins laying the groundwork for the next highway reauthorization bill, lawmakers and business groups are examining the funding mechanisms that will finance the nation’s infrastructure, including an increase in the fuel tax and the use of public-private partnerships and tolls. During the first hearing on highway funding this session, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster voiced his support for a strong national highway system and listened to testimony from transportation advocates who asked Congress to find new funding sources to avoid cobbling together revenue for road and transit projects.
Testifying during the hearing, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said, "I know it's difficult time to consider taxes, but we have to fund the transportation system. The inescapable reality is in the short term, that is going to require an increase in the gas tax." Rendell now heads the transportation advocacy group Building America's Future.
Rendell also called on Congress to allow states to toll existing interstate capacity. "I know there's a theory that you paid for it already, but you pay for a car when you buy it, but you also pay to maintain it year after year after year," he said.
Also testifying during the hearing was Thomas Donohue, chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He told Congress the simplest, most straightforward way to fix the Highway Trust Fund is to raise the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax. Donohue also called for additional public-private partnerships, saying they "ease strain on federal and state budget, and free up public money for projects that can attract investment."
Around the same time of the hearing, the Chamber held its first infrastructure summit, with business owners saying they are willing to pay for highway improvements. “We are willing to provide the one thing this problem needs the most: money,” Donohue said, citing support among shippers and truckers for higher fuel taxes.
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