Falling Gas Prices Put Focus on Inadequate Fuels Tax

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With gas prices falling to their lowest levels in years and the Highway Trust Fund expected to run out of cash after May, some members of Congress are considering the first increase in motor fuels taxes in more than two decades.

The trust fund pays for highway and other transit construction and maintenance. It faces a shortfall of more than $100 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Levies on gasoline and diesel fuel are the trust fund’s dedicated revenue source. But because they have not been increased in two decades, inflation and improved fuel efficiency have left the fund short of what it needs to pay for ongoing and anticipated projects across the country.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) — incoming chairman of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee — indicated Sunday that Republicans could consider raising fuel taxes for the first time since 1993. Thune said lawmakers “cannot take anything off the table” in considering options on the trust fund.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said recently of a hike in the gas tax: “If something like this is going to be done, now is the time to do it.”  Last June he introduced a bill to increase the tax but it did not go anywhere in the Senate.

External links:
Top Republican Open to Gas Tax Increase (CNN Money)
Article on Falling Gas Prices (N.Y. Times)
Long-Term Highway Funding: Congress Takes a Detour (Concord Coalition)
Highway Trust Fund August Baseline Projections (Congressional Budget Office)

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