Highway Trust Fund Almost Broke, Senators Propose Gas Tax

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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A bipartisan plan backed by Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy and Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker has been proposed to help maintain the struggling Highway Trust Fund.

The Corker-Murphy plan would raise the gas tax by 12 cents over two years, indexing the tax to inflation. The last time gas taxes were raised was in 1993, but now the situation is much more urgent. If Congress abstains from interference, the Highway Trust Fund will be entirely insolvent by the next month. The Highway Trust Fund pays for transit programs and roads across the country.

“Most Americans want to see us to continue to improve our infrastructure,” said Corker.

And other measures which just temporarily push the problem back one step won’t work and are irresponsible, Corker maintained. Obama’s corporate tax plan had no chance of success, and Sen. Barbara Boxer couldn’t gain Republican support for a wholesale oil tax. Corker also disagreed vigorously with the alternative Republican plan of cutting US Postal Service delivery on Saturdays.

“The worst position is for us to, again, throw our kids and grandkids under the bus by transferring money in from the general fund each year to fill the void and not pay for it — just to borrow the money,” Corker said.

Several advocates praised the senators for their bold move. “We applaud Sens. Murphy and Corker for their gutsy proposal to increase the federal gasoline and diesel taxes by six cents in each of the next two years to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund from going broke,” said International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association Executive Director Patrick Jones.

Chris Chocola, president of Club for Growth, argued instead against the increase and pointed out that the responsibility for infrastructure maintenance should rest with the states.

“This is a $164 billion dollar tax increase, plain and simple. A gas tax hike would be both bad policy and terribly anti-growth. It’s not an example of political courage to avoid reforming a broken system,” said Chocola in a statment. “Instead of standing up to the special interests who feast on the chronically bankrupt Highway Trust Fund year after year, Senator Corker and Senator Murphy have essentially decided that throwing more money into a black hole is a good path forward.”

Chocola concluded, “Rather than perpetuate this failed system, Congress should devolve highway funding to the states and let them fund their own infrastructure needs.”

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