In a blog post dated Feb. 4, I discussed the fact that oil prices, recent Senate history, and general White House infrastructure support spelled the right moment for advocates to move on an increase in the gas tax.

As it turns out, I may have undersold not only the number of government players involved but also the scope of change that could be on the way.


As reported in the Washington Post, today marks the beginning of a “Twitter fest” pushing for passage of a comprehensive transportation bill. The idea is to hold a digital “town meeting” on an issue that has plagued lawmakers for some time.

It is significant for a few reasons. The event is bipartisan. And the specific individuals are not necessarily those one might expect.

Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE is leading the charge from the left. This portion is not a giant shock. The president emphasized this issue in his State of the Union. Foxx’s actions fall directly in line.

The more surprising part is that Republican support is coming from the House of Representatives – a chamber that has been far quieter on this issue than their Senate counterparts of late.

Yet, House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has quite visibly sprung to action.

He hosted a hearing this week to discuss the need for a long-term fix that could cover as much as six-years in federal funding.

Shuster is also saying the right things. In his words, the “timing is right” for a major bill.

“I don’t want to add money to the deficit,” he said. “What the final solution is, I do not know, but I’m sure we’ll have a final solution and get a long-term bill. Repatriation could pay for it, and it’s not deficit spending.”

Repatriation is perhaps the most significant word used.

Shuster signaled that his party would not be adopting the president’s proposal as is. But they seem open to discussing the core tenet. Namely, the idea of repatriating funds from the $2 trillion in overseas assets held by American companies appears to be on the table.

And the momentum growing behind increased transportation spending is not contained entirely at the federal level.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R-S.D.) has proposed a 2-cent vehicle excise tax hike.

“No one wants to raise taxes less than I do,” he said. But “there is a difference between being cheap and being frugal…sometimes spending in the short run is smart and saves money in the long run.”

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) stressed that raising more money is something that “must be done.”

In fact, the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, claims that as many as 12 states could pass gas tax increases this year.

Taken in sum, there is a general sense that change is coming. It may be top-down, and put hundreds of billions of new dollars on the table. It may be a more piecemeal state-by-state, bottom-up effort.

Either way, the trade winds seem to be blowing the right way at last for those that have long pushed for transportation reform to little avail.

Whether we move from rhetoric to action as always remains the key question. 

Lucadamo is the lead policy analyst at Miller Center of Public Affairs.