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House bill looks to increase federal gas tax

Keywords: Tags  gas tax legislation, Earl Blumenauer, diesel, gasoline, infastructure funding, Steel Manufacturers Associaiton, SMA, Association of Equipment Manufacturers Rick Patek

CHICAGO — A House bill has been introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.) that would phase in a 15-cent-per-gallon tax increase on gasoline and diesel fuel over the next three years to help close a gap in transportation funding.

"There’s a broad and persuasive coalition that stands ready to support (such an increase)," he said, citing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, unions, and the construction and trucking industries, among others. "We just need to give them something to support."

The gas tax, now at 18.4 cents per gallon, hasn’t been raised since 1993.

In recent years, Congress has transferred more than $50 billion of General Fund revenue to the Highway Trust Fund to keep it afloat. The Highway Trust Fund—which finances billions of dollars worth of road, highway, bridge, water and sewer works projects that consume many thousands of tons of structural sections, rebar, plate, tubular and sheet products annually—will need almost $15 billion per year in addition to current gas tax receipts to maintain its funding level, which won’t finance imminent needs.

Continuing on this path will mean a 30-percent drop in federal transportation spending by 2024, Blumenauer said, but the Update Act would raise around $170 billion over 10 years.

"The U.S. failure to properly tax gasoline has deep negative impacts on the overall economy," the Steel Manufacturers Association said in its 2013-14 policy statement. "Increased user fees, including the gas tax, should be a key source of necessary funds."

"The Update Act could spur economic growth and competitiveness while improving our nation’s ability to efficiently move goods," Association of Equipment Manufacturers chairman Rick Patek said. "Investing in ... infrastructure is critical to keeping America competitive, and we ... (seek to) reauthorize the federal highway bill for the long term."

The American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave the nation’s infrastructure a grade of D+ earlier this year, sees the legislation as "a major step forward in addressing how to fix America’s surface transportation infrastructure," executive director Patrick J. Natale said.

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