Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden raises possibility of 2020 presidential bid Cures bill clears first Senate hurdle A record number of Indian Americans have been elected to Congress MORE (I-Vt.) is introducing a bill to spend $1 trillion over the next five years to boost the nation's transportation infrastructure.
The measure, which has been dubbed “Rebuild America Act,” comes as lawmakers have been discussing the possibility of raising the federal gas tax to help pay for a new round of transportation spending with prices at the pump having reached their lowest levels in years.
Sanders did not suggest raising the gas tax to pay for his measure in an op-ed that was published in The Hill on Tuesday, but he said a large transportation funding package in Congress was long overdue.
Sanders did not offer a concrete funding mechanism for his transportation proposal.
The gas tax, which predates the development of the Interstate Highway System, has been the traditional source for transportation projects since its inception in the 1930s.
The tax, which has not been increased since 1993, brings in about $34 billion per year. The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on road and transit projects, and transportation advocates have maintained that the larger figure is only enough to maintain the current state of the U.S. infrastructure network.
The current transportation funding bill, which authorizes the collection of the gas tax at its current rate, is scheduled to expire in May.
Sanders said U.S. voters would support an increase in funding for the transportation networks they use often.
“Our infrastructure is collapsing, and the American people know it,” he wrote. “Every day, they drive on roads with unforgiving potholes, over bridges that are in disrepair and wait in traffic jams on congested roads. They see railroads and subways that arrive late and that are overcrowded. They see airports bursting at the seams. They worry that a local levee could fail in a storm.”
Republicans are unlikely to go along with a large increase in transportation spending without an offset somewhere else in the federal budget.
High-profile Republicans such as Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (Pa.) have expressed skepticism about asking drivers to pay more at the pump to finance new transportation projects.
However, other lawmakers, including a few influential Republicans in the Senate, have indicated that they would be open to raising the gas tax now.
Sanders said it was time to make a large investment in boosting U.S. infrastructure.
“To get our infrastructure to a state of good repair by 2020, the American Society of Civil Engineers says we must invest $1.6 trillion more than what we now spend,” he wrote. “If that sounds a like a lot of money, consider for a moment that the sad state of our infrastructure already costs the economy close to $200 billion per year.
“A $1 trillion investment would put 13 million people to work repairing the backlog of infrastructure projects all across this country,” he continued. “Moreover, each project would require equipment, supplies and services, and the hard-earned salaries from the jobs created would be spent in countless restaurants, shops and other local businesses. And, all of this economic activity would generate new tax revenues to pay for the services that the American people expect and deserve.”