On Tuesday, the House voted to extend federal transportation funding for two months, in an attempt to prevent an interruption in the nation’s infrastructure funding at month’s end.
The traditional source of transportation funding has been revenue from the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax. The tax has not been increased since 1993, however, and improvements in auto fuel efficiency have sapped its purchasing power.
The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on transportation projects, but the gas tax only brings in $34 billion at its current rate.
Transportation advocates have pushed for an increase in the gas tax to pay for a long-term infrastructure package, but Republicans say asking drivers to pay more at the pump is a nonstarter. Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) members continue to support raising the gas tax because they feel it is the most straightforward way to make the Highway Trust Fund solvent while upholding the user fee principle.
"I want to congratulate the House on extending the Highway Trust Fund for two more months, and I hope the Senate follows suit later this week," Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) said following House passage of a two-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund. "Equipment manufacturers supported this extension because it keeps the chronic problems plaguing the Highway Trust Fund at front of mind for lawmakers for the next 10 weeks.
"We heard a lot from lawmakers about their support for a long-term highway bill," he continues. "But actions speak louder than words. If Congress wants to demonstrate its commitment to a sustainable solution for the Highway Trust Fund, the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee could start by hosting hearings on the topic of highway financing. Even better would be for leaders in Congress and the Obama administration to produce new, innovative proposals on how they would fund a long-term bill.
"If members of Congress believe the gas tax is not politically viable, then it is incumbent upon them to produce an alternative," he concludes. "We look forward to seeing those proposals soon."