Sen. Burr says amendment expanding tax credit for natural-gas vehicles likely to fail

Burr spent 40 minutes on the Senate floor arguing in favor of the language, which is also supported by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Burr said the United States needs to try providing incentives to promote natural-gas vehicles, and said failing to try would only make gasoline prices rise faster.

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"What's the impact on the American people if we don't do this?" he asked. "It's higher gas and diesel prices. It's higher prices for all the goods we buy."

"I was rated as the seventh-most conservative in the United States Senate. This year I bought a hybrid. I bought a hybrid because I was tired of paying people money that hate us. I was tired of paying an exorbitant amount for gasoline."

But while the amendment is supported by Burr, many other Republicans are likely to reject the amendment, which will require 60 votes for passage this week. Several conservative groups have called on Republicans to reject the language as an attempt to pick winners and losers in the marketplace, and the Heritage Foundation has said it would rate senators based in part on how they vote on the language.

The amendment would expand tax subsidies for the natural-gas-vehicle industry, although it is aimed at trucks and corporate fleets, not consumer automobiles. The tax incentive would range from $7,500 for light-duty vehicles to $64,000 for heavy-duty vehicles.

The amendment would pay for those subsidies with what Burr called a new user fee on natural-gas purchases, but which other conservatives have said is a new tax. According to the amendment, the user fee starts at 2.5 cents per gallon in 2014, and rises to 12.5 cents in 2021 before expiring.

The Senate starts voting on the remaining 22 amendments to the highway authorization bill, S. 1813, on Tuesday.