WASHINGTON, DC –(ENEWSPF)—December 4, 2014. Today, Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Tom Petri (WI-06) stood together to call on Congress to raise the nation’s gas tax in order to save the failing Highway Trust Fund, which funds the United States transportation infrastructure. The event coincided with the one-year anniversary of Blumenauer’s introduction of the Update, Promote and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act and with Congressman Petri joining Congressman Blumenauer as a cosponsor of the legislation earlier in the week. The UPDATE Act would phase in a 15 cent increase to the gas tax over a period of three years and would index it to inflation.
The Congressmen were joined by a cutout of former President Ronald Reagan, who called on Congress to raise the gas tax during his Thanksgiving Day Address in 1982. Blumenauer played a few excerpts from President Reagan’s speech.
“I want to thank Tom for his leadership on this issue and for joining me on this bill,” said Blumenauer. “He has been a champion for common sense for many years in Congress. Like President Reagan, he knows that that transportation funding was not, and should never be, a partisan issue. We all use our roads, bridges and rail, whether we’re Republicans or Democrats, rural or urban. Reagan also knew that the gas tax is actually a user fee, which means that those who use the roads the most are the ones paying for them. This should be our last gas tax increase ever, as we look for fairer and more sustainable funding methods, but it’s necessary to bridge the gap and keep our country moving.”
“I am cosponsoring Rep. Blumenauer’s bill because we need a first rate transportation system and the responsible thing to do is pay for it. For too long we have watched unmet infrastructure needs increase and the regular funding source to meet these needs become less and less relevant over time. We have to ask ourselves what is the more fiscally responsible route to take–budget gimmicks that fool taxpayers into thinking we have offset spending but that, in reality, put more debt in the hands of future generations? Or, restoring purchasing power to the Trust Fund so we can meet our transportation needs now and in the future?
“Ronald Reagan supported raising the gas tax back in 1982 because he believed in funding American infrastructure in a responsible way. I think he was right, and it’s the best course of action we can take at this time.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the United State’s surface transportation infrastructure requires more than $2 trillion of investment in order to remain economically competitive. In 2011, the Federal Highway Administration estimated that over $70.9 billion worth of repairs were needed merely to maintain safe bridges. Even just to maintain current infrastructure funding levels, the CBO estimates that the Highway Trust Fund will need $100 billion in addition to current tax receipts for the period from FY15-FY20.
If Congress cannot find a way to make the Highway Trust Fund solvent, this continued disinvestment will mean a more than 30% drop in federal transportation spending by 2024.
“While we haven’t seen much action from Congress since the gas tax was raised 21 years ago, there have been a few voices of common sense and rationality,” said former United States Secretary for Transportation, Ray LaHood. “The loudest and most persistent of these has been Earl Blumenauer, who introduced the first bill in the House to raise the gas tax since President Clinton’s first term. It’s one thing to recognize the crumbling state of America’s infrastructure, but another to stand up and call for Congress to show some political courage. Congress should pass Earl’s bill to fully fund our roads, highways, and bridges.”
“I’m pleased to see that Congressman Petri has joined Congressman Blumenauer in endorsing the idea of gradually restoring the purchasing power of the federal gas tax to ensure that we can continue to maintain and invest in our nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems,” said Senator Tom Carper of Delaware. “Ever since I had responsibility for a state transportation system as governor of Delaware, I’ve been convinced that user fees like the gas tax are the most efficient and fairest way to pay for infrastructure investments. Both Congressman Petri and Congressman Blumenauer are leaders who carry clout on this issue, in particular, and I hope that their voices, along with the chorus of varied groups calling for passing and funding a long-term transportation bill, will get us that much closer to action in Congress.”