State legislative association to Congress: Increase federal gas tax

Monday, July 28, 2008

From a story released by the National Conference of State Legislators:

NEW ORLEANS -- The nation's state legislators collectively told Congress Friday that they are in the driver's seat with transportation policy.

At the Legislative Summit in New Orleans, the National Conference of State Legislatures approved a new Surface Transportation Federalism policy that calls for a narrow, focused vision for the next federal transportation bill.

"Our current method of collecting revenue and paying for transportation projects is broken, especially at $4 per gallon gas prices," said Oregon state Senator Bruce Starr, who helped draft the policy and leads NCSL's Surface Transportation Reauthorization Working Group. "Our policy calls on Congress to maintain the Highway Trust Fund, which is depleting at a rapid rate, and to do this they will have to increase the federal gas tax."

The federal gas tax funds the nation’s transportation system, but has been diminishing in value in recent years as alternative fuels enter the marketplace, hybrid vehicles sales increase, and people are driving less. In turn, that decreases the revenue generated by the per-gallon gas tax.

The gas tax was last increased in 1993. In the short term, an increase will ensure the Highway Trust Fund remains solvent, but the NCSL policy encourages Congress to move toward new funding strategies. One such concept is a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee that charges a vehicle based on the number of miles driven in a state. An Oregon pilot program proved the concept viable and NCSL encourages Congress to explore VMT, including the necessary vehicle-based technology to realize it, as a new user fee to fund federal highway coffers.