Senators Murphy (D) and Corker (R) Propose 12-Cent Gas Tax Increase

There are several proposals on the table to stave off the impending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund (which pays for transit, biking, and walking projects too) in two months. Just now, two senators teamed up to announce one that might actually have a chance.

The R after Sen. Bob Corker's name might make all the difference for this proposal. Photo: ##http://www.corker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Images.Display&ImageGallery_id=a36a3e1a-0103-b714-2285-f8fb90d613e1##Office of Sen. Corker##
The R after Sen. Bob Corker’s name might make all the difference for this proposal. Photo: ##http://www.corker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Images.Display&ImageGallery_id=a36a3e1a-0103-b714-2285-f8fb90d613e1##Office of Sen. Corker##

Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) have proposed increasing the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over two years. The federal gas tax currently stands at 18.4 cents a gallon, where it has been set since 1993, when gas cost $1.16 a gallon. The senators’ proposal would also extend some expiring tax cuts as a way to reduce the impact on Americans.

“I know raising the gas tax isn’t an easy choice, but we’re not elected to make easy decisions – we’re elected to make the hard ones,” said Murphy. “This modest increase will pay dividends in the long run and I encourage my colleagues to get behind this bipartisan proposal.”

This proposal — while still not introduced as a formal bill — has far more potential than anything else that’s been offered. President Obama’s corporate tax scheme was dead on arrival, even though it had support from the Republican chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp. Rep. Peter DeFazio’s idea of a per-barrel oil fee and Sen. Barbara Boxer’s idea for a wholesale oil tax don’t have Republican support. Neither does Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s 15-cent gas tax hike, which was the most logical proposal on the table, until now. What the House Republicans want to do is fund the transportation bill by reducing Saturday postal service — a hare-brained scheme if ever there was one.

What gives this proposal a fighting chance, of course, is Bob Corker’s name on it. Not only is Corker a Republican, but he’s a respected leader on the Banking Committee. It’s also a sign that maybe, just maybe, as we stare down the barrel of a real funding shortfall, members of Congress might find the gumption to do what they all know needs to be done: raise the gas tax.

“In Washington, far too often, we huff and puff about paying for proposals that are unpopular, yet throw future generations under the bus when public pressure mounts on popular proposals that have broad support,” said Corker. “Congress should be embarrassed that it has played chicken with the Highway Trust Fund and allowed it to become one of the largest budgeting failures in the federal government. If Americans feel that having modern roads and bridges is important then Congress should have the courage to pay for it.”

The CBO has said that a one-cent increase in the gas tax would net $1.5 billion a year. That means this 12-cent increase would bring in exactly the $18 billion needed annually to fund the Senate’s six-year transportation bill. And perhaps most importantly, Corker and Murphy propose indexing the tax to inflation so it remains viable in the future.

“A return to stable funding will ensure that our states and communities can repair aging roads, bridges and transit systems and build the infrastructure we need for a growing economy,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America, in a statement. “The alternative is to allow our transportation system to crumble along with an economy hobbled by crapshoot commutes and clogged freight corridors.”

The president and CEO of AAA, which just came out in favor of a gas tax increase, agreed. “Many Americans are willing to pay a little more if it will lead to improved transportation and a better commute,” said Bob Darbelnet in a statement.

  • Kevin Love

    12 cents is rather insignificant. In many places, retail gasoline prices fluctuate more than that on a regular basis. Does anyone really believe that this will deter many car drivers from launching their lethal cancer poison attacks upon our children?

    Still, its better than nothing. Each of the fine particles put out by car drivers can be regarded as a lottery ticket. Breathe one in and you are playing the car driver’s cancer lottery. Grand prize… an agonizing death!

  • The idea isn’t to disincentivize driving. It’s to fund transportation. The CBO has recommended an increase of 10 to 15 cents to backfill the trust fund (http://www.cbo.gov/publication/45315). A 12 cent increase would raise the $18 billion the Senate needs to fund its bill — current spending levels plus inflation.

  • Thanks for reminding me — I just added that to the story. 🙂

  • Kevin Love

    How about funding health care and wrongful death compensation for the people poisoned by car drivers?

  • Outcast Searcher

    How about posting something practical instead of tinfoil hat whining?

    For starters, how do you get to work, heat and cool your home, travel for business and vacation, etc?

    Unless you can make an intelligent post about how you can earn a living and support your family and NOT burn any hydrocarbons, your posts above are just shrill noise.

    I’m all for green energy, but:

    1). It will be a gradual process to build the green infrastructure out, and we’ll need fossil fuels in the mean time. It’s still not clear how we produce ENOUGH green energy to stop using fossil fuels altogether unless you get people to greatly ease up on their net energy demands. Good luck with that, given US politics.

    2). What do you do about the massive third world middle class build-out that is increasing global demand for energy FAR more than first world technology and conservation is decreasing it?

  • JamesR

    Erm… fine particulates are actually much less of an issue with gasoline-powered car exhaust. PM2.5 is mostly a diesel issue, and diesel powered cars are only a tiny portion of the privately-owned vehicle fleet in the US. Here, diesel = trucks. But don’t let a technicality like that get in the way of shrieking and hyperbolic statements like the above.

  • Kevin Love

    Wow! I now realize that civilization did not exist before car drivers started poisoning people.

    Oh wait… There is this magical modern invention called a “bicycle.” Too bad none are yet available in New York.

    More seriously, all my life I’ve been listening to various flavors of this nonsense. People saying things like:

    “Ban asbestos? You can’t do that! Modern industry depends upon asbestos.”

    or,

    “Ban smoking in bars and restaurants? That will cause those businesses to go bankrupt!”

    or,

    “Those proposals for ending acid rain will make American industry uncompetitive.”

    Going back to my childhood, I vividly remember it being earnestly explained to me how the Jim Crow laws were the only thing standing between civilization and chaos.

    Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health reports that car drivers poison and kill 440 people in that city every year. See:

    http://www.smartcommutetoronto.ca/media/uploads/TPH%202007%20Rerpot%20-%20air_pollution_burden.pdf

    For New York that will be over 1,000 people poisoned and killed by car drivers. Guess what? It really isn’t necessary to poison and kill people on a mass scale. We can change. See:

  • Kevin Love

    I’m not a fan of diesel trucks either. But really, what you wrote is like saying, “Sure I beat my wife. But my neighbor beats his twice as much so I’m innocent.”

    I do not believe that anyone gets to launch a lethal cancer poison attack upon myself, my wife and my children. Whether it is with a car, a truck or any other lethal weapon.

  • Roger87

    Be careful what you wish for. The gas tax funds highway construction and therefore encourages driving. It can’t be entirely coincidental that miles driven per capita have fallen along with the inflation-adjusted revenue brought in through the tax, a trend which predates the recession.

  • Alex Brideau III

    A point well taken, but many of today’s industries are allowed to release cancer-causing products with little or no American regulation, not just the auto industry.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Keep in mind that these days not all cars run on internal combustion engines. Bit by bit we’re seeing more electric cars and even delivery trucks on the road.

    And not all of them are powered by “dirty” electricity either. Many power companies allow their patrons to utilize a “green power” option instead of the standard power mix.

    This gas tax in its current form may ever so slightly push folks to shop for more fuel-efficient and gas-free vehicles, but at only $0.12 per gallon, it will likely be more of a tap than a push.

  • Kevin Love

    I don’t really approve of them either. But with a body count of well over 1,000 people poisoned and killed dead in New York City every year, a car-free Island of Manhattan becomes an excellent first step.

  • Jack Jackson

    what about a train that blows up in my town and kills my wife children and 50 neighbors?

  • Jack Jackson

    civilization existed well before that…except it sucked. it’s called progress

    you apparently want to undo the gains of the industrial revolution

  • Alex Brideau III

    I assume you’re talking about freight trains, because I’ve never heard of a passenger train blowing up. But this is all the more reason to devote more funds to upgrading our rail infrastructure. Would you prefer freight trains with dangerous content running over rails of good or bad quality?

  • Alex Brideau III

    A noble goal, though I suspect that without a societal sea change, this “first step” is unlikely to occur in my lifetime for myriad reasons. A better first step for NYC would be for them to more seriously consider lowering the speed limits of their streets instead of balking at such a proposal.

  • JimthePE

    Any increase in taxes should be matched by a decrease in the horrendous administrative overhead that comes along with federal aid projects.

  • lop

    Does that mean it’s wrong to burn natural gas for heat even though oil is worse since it still pollutes?

  • Kevin Love

    The only train that has blown up recently was carrying crude oil… Mostly for cars.

  • Jack Jackson

    why should I devote my taxes towards Fortune 500 private companies? they can pay to upgrade their rails themselves

  • Cinnamental

    Because gas just isn’t expensive enough, and because the federal government just doesn’t get enough tax revenue already. Their out of control spending is never the issue, they always just need more money.

  • It turns out the natural gas use in the US is far worse for greenhouse gas emissions than we thought because the system (wells to pipelines) leaks far more methane into the atmosphere than was previously known. Pretty much we all need to heat our houses with heat pumps or passive solar, and we probably need to make this transition over the next ten years. There are cold climate heat pumps out now than can keep up with sub zero temperatures. The good news is heat pumps also work for air conditioning and are far more efficient than the air conditioners most people now have.

  • Cold Shoaler

    “Because gas just isn’t expensive enough”

    Nope. It sure isn’t. It should be a LOT more expensive.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/visual-data/gas-prices/20142:United%20States:USD:g

  • trisher

    I’m not willing to pay for more because I know it won’t lead to improved transportation and a better commute. How about lowering some salaries and layoffs like private companies would do?

  • vnm

    Yes, the private companies hurt by a funding shortfall might do that.

    You know how road construction works, right? The Federal government provides the trust fund money to the 50 state Departments of Transportation. The DOTs then figure out which of their projects are most urgent. Then they offer the construction work to private companies (a/k/a contractors) to bid on. Then the lowest bidding private companies spend the tax money and rebuild the roads. So if the trust fund runs out of money and there is less business going toward the private companies, yes, they could do layoffs and salary cuts. You are 100% correct.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Well, if you’re concerned about freight trains blowing up, then I would assume you’d be willing to pay for the safest rail infrastructure possible, not just the bare minimum that the corporations are willing to provide.

    An alternate solution would be to compel these companies to fund track upgrades out of their own pockets, but I suspect the political will is not there for such a move.

  • Alex Brideau III

    I live in a fairly new apartment building and the units here use only water and electricity for all their needs; no natural gas. I wonder whether there is a trend toward this kind of setup, or is natural gas still as popular for residential use as it ever was? I wonder also whether the trend differs for urban vs. suburban and rural areas.

  • 2wheeler

    A 65% increase is “modest”? Further demonstration these idiots in government are not good at math.

  • cwalkster

    The article does not mention if Congress will stop giving tax breaks to oil companies.
    All large oil companies are doing well. They could easily cover the 12 cents
    per gallon increase instead of us.

  • wqjackson

    Walking does the body good.

  • RobertCrawley

    Tenn has the lowest price for gas in the south no wonder the Bone Head wants to raise the Tax.Off with his head!

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