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Earl B.
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  • The Gas Tax

    by Representative Earl Blumenauer

    Posted on 2015-01-13

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    BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, the momentum for an increase in the Federal gas tax continues to build. This weekend's excellent New York Times editorial made the case why the increase is needed and long overdue. Costs of repair increase dramatically the longer they are delayed. In the meantime, Americans paid billions of dollars for congestion, wasted gas, and repairing damage to their cars, and thousands of lives are lost due to unsafe roads. This followed an editorial in The Washington Post making the same argument, joining USA Today, L.A. Times, and a variety of newspapers across the country.

    Recently, we have seen eight Senators from both parties who have been [[Page H230]] identified as stepping up, either supporting a gas tax or at least being open to it. We have seen leadership at the State level as eight States in the last 2 years have increased gas taxes, including some very red States like Wyoming and New Hampshire. Here in the House, there are already 136 Members who have signed a bipartisan letter urging the leadership to act on providing appropriate funding that is sustainable and dedicated.

    Well, Mr. Speaker, we do have a solution. This issue has been studied extensively, including two Presidential commissions during the Bush administration. The conclusion was that there is no better, more effective solution than simply raising the gas tax, which hasn't been increased in 22 years.

    People know America is falling behind as it is falling apart. The concern about the financial impact of a gas tax increase on families is waning. As gas prices plummet, my corner gas station is selling gasoline at $1.60 per gallon less than its peak last year.

    I will be reintroducing the funding proposal I had in the last Congress. That legislation was widely supported by a range of interests that included labor, business, the professions, local government, transit, environmentalists, truckers, AAA, and cyclists. They all agreed that there is a critical need to fund investments in rebuilding and renewing America.

    Mr. Speaker, the arguments today are basically the same that were used by President Ronald Reagan in his Thanksgiving Day address in 1982. He used his nationwide radio speech 33 years ago to call for an increase that more than doubled the Federal gas tax. He pointed out that that tax is actually for the people who benefit from using it, that the user fee would cost less than the damage to repair their cars from damage due to poor conditions from roads and bridges. As President Reagan said, it would probably be less than a pair of shock absorbers.

    He pointed out that the gas tax then, as now, had not been raised in more than two decades, and that repairing infrastructure that was failing would put hundreds of thousands of people to work while it protected the investment in our infrastructure as well as in our automobiles Mr. Speaker, it is time for Congress to step up. The States are doing their part. People are exploring innovative financing approaches involving the private sector. People are looking at creative ways to design and build projects, but there is no substitute for the 25 percent of infrastructure funding that comes from the Federal partnership. It is absolutely essential for projects that are multiyear, projects that are multimodal and that involve a number of jurisdictions, often a number of States.

    This May we face the expiration of the short-term highway trust fund fix from last summer. We are back in the exact same situation we were then. Failing to address the funding issue head-on has meant that we haven't had a 6-year reauthorization approved by Congress since 1997. Since then, we have had two ever-shorter reauthorizations and 21 temporary extensions. Over $60 billion of general fund money has been needed to just prop up our inadequate system.

    {time} 1030 Mr. Speaker, no country has become great planning and building its infrastructure 6 months at a time. It is time to capitalize on falling oil prices, on the momentum that is building around the country, and the realization that we need to act now.

    I strongly urge my colleagues to join me and, indeed, President Reagan in this long overdue action. America will be better off, the economy will be stronger, communities will be more livable and our families safer, healthier, and more economically secure.


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