The FAA dispute may not even be the biggest Congressionally-made challenge facing the nation's troubled transportation system. Unless Congress extends it, the 18.4 cents-a-gallon federal gas tax is due to expire on Sept. 30.
Normally that wouldn't be a big deal - under Republicans and Democrats alike, the gas tax has been extended repeatedly since it was first introduced (at 1 cent-a-gallon) back in 1932. Both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush even raised it!
But as the debt ceiling showdown demonstrated, we no longer live in normal times - at least not in Washington - and ultra-conservative activists like Grover Norquist have made noises about opposing the gas tax's renewal. (Norquist, the head of the advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform, was a major force behind Republican intransigence during the debt ceiling negotiations.)
The argument is that lifting the gas tax would offer relief for Americans spending an average of $3.58 a gallon for gas - and in any case, it should be up to the states (which apply their own fuel taxes) to cover spending on road construction and maintenance.
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