Dave Bauer, of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, says Congress should increase the user fee gas tax by at least 15 cents per gallon in order to properly fund the Highway Trust Fund.
If the fund is not replenished by May 31, it will go insolvent this fall.
“The [user fee) is broad based, spread out over all users, and it’s a minimal charge,” Bauer, the association's senior vice president of government relations, said in a recent interview with TI News Daily. “If you don’t use the system, you don’t pay it.”
He went on to explain the current user fee hasn’t been raised since 1993.
“There are very few things that cost less or the same than they did 21 years ago,” Bauer said.
He added many states have increased its gas taxes with little to no resistance from taxpayers.
A one-cent increase in the tax would generate an additional $1.5 billion in revenues; a 10-cent increase would, “only be the status quo,” Bauer said. “I think we should shoot for 15 cents. That would get us some much needed improvements, and it might even create a few jobs."
Bauer said for Congress to continue to transfer funds from the general fund into the Highway Trust Fund is just kicking the can down the road and called such action “indefensible.” Although, he added, he appreciates that Congress needs to find a sustainable way to responsibly fund the Highway Trust Fund.
“I don’t know of any politicians who have said they want to go to Washington to increase our debt," Bauer said.
Bauer did say he supports the Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act, which was recently proposed by Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH).
The act, if passed, would index gas and diesel user fees to inflation. Additionally, the legislation calls for the creation of a bipartisan, bicameral Transportation Commission no later than Sept. 1. This group would be charged with determining a path forward for sustainable funding and would be advised to consider all options.
“The bill, while process oriented, is one potential way for Congress to move forward," Bauer said. "In the meantime, we’re not going to sit on our hands. We think Congress has the ability if they so choose to find a solution to stabilize the trust fund right now.”