Reps enlist Reagan to sell gas tax hike

Reps enlist Reagan to sell gas tax hike
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A bipartisan pair of House members are using former President Reagan to build support for a potential increase in the federal gas tax.

The tax, which pays for federal transportation projects, was increased in 1982, just two years into the Reagan administration, which remains very popular with modern conservatives. 

It has not changed since 1993, four years after Reagan left office.

Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerHouse votes to block aircraft sales to Iran Expand the health savings account 'safe harbor' to reduce health costs Time to pass the U.S. OUTDOOR Act to support American jobs and consumers MORE (D-Ore.) and Tom PetriTom PetriCombine healthcare and tax reform to bring out the best in both Overnight Tech: Internet lobby criticizes GOP privacy bill | Apple sees security requests for user data skyrocket | Airbnb beefs up lobbying Dozens of former GOP lawmakers announce opposition to Trump MORE (R-Wis.) will spotlight Reagan’s support for the 1982 gas tax increase in a press conference on Wednesday, their offices announced on Monday. 

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“Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Republican Congressman Tom Petri will stand together on the one year anniversary of Blumenauer’s introduction of the UPDATE Act (HR 3636), which would increase the gas tax by fifteen cents over 3 years and tie it to inflation,” the lawmakers offices said in a statement. 

“The two Congressmen will be joined by the words and image of former President Ronald Reagan, who spoke eloquently on the need for Congress to raise the gas tax in 1982,” the statement continued. “At that point, Congress did raise the gas tax, and did again in 1993, but has not done so in the subsequent 21 years, leaving it with greatly diminished purchasing power. Blumenauer and Petri will speak on the need for Congress to immediately enact this modest increase to adjust for modern times, and on the necessity of repairing our nation’s crumbling transportation infrastructure.” 

The gas tax, which is currently 18.4 cents per gallon, pre-dates the development of the Interstate Highway System. It has been the primary source for federal transportation projects since its creation in the 1930s. 

Receipts from the tax have been outpaced by transportation expenses by about $16 billion annually in recent years as construction costs have risen and cars have become more fuel efficient. 

The current level of federal transportation spending is about $50 billion per year, but the gas tax only brings in about $34 billion annually at its current rate. 

Lawmakers have turned to other areas of the federal budget in recent years to close the gap in lieu of asking drivers to pay more at the pump, but critics say the temporary bandages are contributing to a weakened national infrastructure. 

Congress had a chance to pass a multi-year transportation funding package earlier this year, but lawmakers could not agree on a way to pay for more than a couple of months' worth of projects, resulting in a temporary extension that lasts only until May 2015. 

The nearly $11 billion measure, which reauthorized the collection of the gas tax but did not increase it, was intended only to prevent a bankruptcy in the Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund. 

The trust fund had been scheduled to run out of money in September without congressional action. 

Transportation advocates have suggested that the current lame-duck session would be the best time for lawmakers to raise the gas tax because it would be more politically viable than it would be during the next Congress. But lawmakers have shown little appetite for tackling the proposed hike before the end of the year.