An Oregon congressman has conceived a proposal to change the way Americans pay for transportation projects, but members of Capitol Hill, including another member from the Oregon congressional delegation, say there’s not enough time.
Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter Defazio, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has introduced HR 4848, “The Repeal and Rebuild Act.” The bill would be a long-term solution to America’s infrastructure problems, would create American jobs, and would “break the transportation funding impasse that has plagued Congress for years,” according to Defazio’s web site.
Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter Defazio (left) and Oregon Republican Senator and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (right)
Defazio’s bill, which has been sent to the House Ways and Means Committee, would repeal the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon (it would not repeal the 24.4 cent per gallon diesel tax), increase the tax on a barrel of oil that is processed into gasoline to $6.75 and index it to construction cost inflation and fleet fuel economy, index the diesel tax to construction cost inflation and fleet fuel economy, allow the new revenue to backfill the current shortfall in the trust fund and reauthorize transportation spending at $324 billion for six years.
“I’m going to repeal the retail gas tax, at the pump, which is put directly on consumers, and we’re going to move the tax upstream to the oil companies and say, ‘You pay the tax and let’s rebuilt America,’” Defazio said June 11 at a Rally for Roads event in Washington, D.C. “It’s time to get the job done. No more hesitation around here. The trust fund runs out in August.”
The per-barrel oil tax would apply only to gasoline. Oil used for aviation, rail or home heating fuel would not be taxed at the same rate. In the first year, the tax would generate less than the current 18.4 cent tax at the pump. It would, however, be indexed to the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Construction Cost Index and to CAFÉ standards to account for less fuel consumption attributed to those standards.
Diesel tax would increase to approximately 26 cents per gallon in the first year with the potential to reach more than 47 cents per gallon after 10 years.
While the rally cry went out to challenge legislators, other members in key leadership positions said there is not enough time, nor the will to tackle a major bill ahead of the Sept. 30 expiration of MAP-21.
“In a three-week period, to responsibly walk though all the different approaches, I think senators are saying that’s a bit much,” Oregon Republican Senator and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden told Politico last week. “It’s had to make the case that you can put all that together in three weeks.”
Defazio dismissed a plan to trim services offered by the U.S. Postal Service, saying the move would be a six-month patch to funding and would devastate the Postal Service in the long run.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx agreed.
“We’ve got to get past the gimmicks in transportation and really get serious about trying to get a long-term strategy done,” Foxx said.
Author: Larry Hurrle, IT Magazine Editor