The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) released a calculator that allows visitors to its website to come up with ways to "fix" the amount of money Congress has to spend on road and transit projects.
The calculator allows visitors to see the impact on the amount of money in the Highway Trust Fund if either other funding areas in the federal budget are reduced or borrowed from the government's general fund, or the federal gas tax is increased.
The release of the calculator comes on the 20th anniversary of the last gas tax increase, a 4.3 cent-per-gallon hike that brought the federal government's take on gasoline purchases to 18.4 cents per gallon in 1993.
ARTBA says the amount of money the gas tax brings in at the 1993 level, approximately $35 billion per year, "cannot keep up with demand on the system. Federal dollars provide 30 to 70 percent of every state’s capital investment in highway, bridge and transit projects annually.
"But Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenues have not been adjusted in 20 years," the association continues. "Without new revenues, the trust fund faces a 100 percent cut in FY2015."
The current transportation spending law is scheduled to expire in September 2014. Congress paid for the measure, which spends approximately $54 billion per year on transportation projects, with a package of trust fund sweeps and fee increases.
ARBTA says lawmakers now face "four clear choices" when it comes time to authorize the next round of transportation spending. These include:
- Let the Highway Trust Fund go over the fiscal cliff
- Steal from other areas of discretionary spending
- Borrow from the general fund and add to the deficit
- Raise new revenues
The online calculator allows visitors to be the "legislator" and make the budget choices themselves.
According to the group's calculator, a 4.3 cent-per-gallon increase similar to the 1993 gas tax hike would change the status of the Highway Trust Fund from "still stuck in traffic" to "green light."
Under the current status of the transportation funding, the calculator says "the HTF revenues will maintain system components, but not make any improvements."
If the tax was increased to 22.7 cents per gallon, however, the calculator says "spending levels can support all economically beneficial projects."