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Earl B.
Democrat OR 3

About Rep. Earl
  • Update the Gas Tax

    by Representative Earl Blumenauer

    Posted on 2013-12-12

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    BLUMENAUER. Madam Speaker, last week I was proud to stand with representatives of the U.S. Chamber, the AFL-CIO, contractors, local government, transit, truckers, AAA, engineers, and environmentalists, all supporting my legislation, H.R. 3636, to update the gas tax.

    It inspired the predictable firestorm. There was a rant from a shouting head on Fox who thought not only did we not need transportation money, but [[Page H7692]] thought that the previous money had somehow disappeared. Even the people who supported the gas tax said it was a horrible idea, like the article in Slate saying it is the best least-popular idea in politics. It provoked a torrent of reaction--some laudatory, some inflammatory. But it boiled down to basically three major points: Where did this idea come from? Well, it came from my decades of work in transportation, studying, listening to people from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon; North Carolina to Seattle to California. It was 10 years of experience that I had directing the transportation functions at the city of Portland as the Commissioner of Public Works where I saw firsthand the impact of poor and declining infrastructure. It is every single major independent study that says we need more money for transportation, not less, and it is a disaster that we are poised to slash transportation funding October 1 unless something happens.

    The question was asked: Isn't this unfair to lower-income Americans? Well, actually no. Lower-income Americans stand to benefit the most, people who are at the mercy of oil companies and foreign producers who don't know how much they will pay for gasoline next week, whether it is $3.35 as it was when I left Portland earlier this week, or $4.25. That is why they think the gas tax goes up every year, but it hasn't increased since 1993.

    Lower-income people are more transportation dependent. They work, in the main, by the hour. A traffic delay or deteriorating transit hits them harder because they have fewer choices. Terrible road conditions costs them money as it wastes fuel, it damages tires, and shakes their cars out of alignment. And lower-income people stand to benefit from the hundreds of thousands of family-wage jobs that will be created.

    Well, my favorite question is: If this is so unpopular and such a remote possibility, why even bother? Well, it is remote, but it is not impossible. Look at the user-fee increase that Ronald Reagan could sign, a nickel a gallon in 1982. We need leadership today if we are going to meet serious transportation challenges and help jump-start our economy. It may sound quaint, but I think leadership is not what you do when an idea is popular. Leadership is what you do when it is needed.

    I hope Congress will lead on transportation funding.


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