A Congressional move to increase federal fuel taxes appears increasingly unlikely this year, according to sources.
Revenue from those taxes goes to the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for any number of road, bridge, and mass transit infrastructure projects.
But attempts to increase the federal gasoline and fuel tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1993, have so far generated little enthusiasm on Capitol Hill.
That fuel tax is 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents on diesel fuel. If the tax were indexed to inflation, it would today be over 30 cents for gasoline and 42 cents for diesel.
Lacking the votes necessary to raise the tax, Congress has instead replenished the trust fund through the use of general taxpayer funds.
To date, according to experts, Congress has provided more than $143 billion in taxpayer money to keep the fund going.
The fuel tax has additionally become a less reliable source of income, says the website Bloomberg Government, due to the fact that “vehicles have become more fuel efficient.”
That lack of revenue has become additionally more acute with the advent of hybrid and energy-efficient electric cars.
According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress could be tasked in the next four years with spending up to $94 billion to keep the trust fund in business.
“And that’s to maintain a spending level that is inadequate, according to business and transportation advocates, many lawmakers and, at times, even President Donald Trump,” notes the newspaper Roll Call.
Now a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is proposing an alternative to the funding mechanism for the Highway Trust Fund.
Illinois Representative Rodney Davis has announced that he would like to see a multiple option funding procedure enacted that would be similar to a retirement account.
Davis’ plan would feature a variety of funding options for commuter and freight networks. He has additionally suggested that a federal tax for hybrid and energy-efficient vehicles, including trucks, should be considered.
Davis’ new approach could also see the implementation of a system that would charge motorists a fee for miles traveled.
The Illinois Congressman says he believes finding several new ways to keep the trust fund going may prove to be one of the signal bipartisan achievements of the 116th Congress.
The current authorization for the Highway Trust Fund expires on September 30, 2020.
By Garry Boulard
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