Voinovich: Gas-tax hike would pump up the job market, help close deficit

Retiring Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) is pressing his case for an increase in the gas tax as a way to help close the federal budget deficit and create additional jobs. 

In a letter to members of President Obama's debt commission, Voinovich laid out his argument for the increase.

"Fuel taxes today fund the vast majority of the federal government's investment in infrastructure projects," Voinovich wrote in the letter. "Due to dwindling fuel tax receipts, Congress has had to transfer billions of dollars from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund to maintain our current level of federal involvement." 

Voinovich said the tax hike is needed to help keep the Highway Trust Fund afloat.

"The lack of investment in our crumbling bridge, highway, and transit systems is a missed opportunity for the creation of thousands of well paying jobs and long term economic growth for our Nation," said Voinovich.  

The federal fuel tax has not seen an increase in nearly two decades. It's currently 18.4 cents a gallon, which was set in 1993. 

The Obama administration has come out against the idea of raising the gas tax.

Voinovich, the ranking member on the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, has been pushing the idea of a hike for a while.

“I believe Americans are willing to pay a higher gas tax to create jobs, improve our infrastructure and better our climate," Voinovich said at a business conference in Ohio last month. "And many of my conservative colleagues do not consider that gas tax as a tax, but as a user fee."

It's the same argument Voinovich made back in April when he called for a fuel tax increase. Voinovich said the money would help jumpstart the economy by helping fund transportation projects. 

It's not an idea lawmakers of either party are likely to embrace, and Voinovich certainly isn't known for toeing his party's line in the Senate. 

The centrist Republican has been courted as a key swing vote by Democrats on major agenda items like healthcare and financial reform.

Democrats are now courting Voinovich on the small-business bill the Senate leadership hopes to take up after the August recess. The Republican leadership has pressured the retiring senator to not vote with Democrats to allow the bill to proceed.  

—Updated at 1:20 p.m.