All options may be on the table for funding transportation, but Bill Shuster has chosen his.
Rep. Shuster, head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, hasn’t been willing to commit to any one proposal for funding transportation until now. And his choice may make things complicated.
At a Bloomberg Government event yesterday, Shuster came out in favor of a plan to tax drivers not per gallon but per mile.
It seemed that after years of being too gun-shy to raise the gas tax, which hasn’t gone up for 20 years, there was beginning to be some resignation to the idea that it was necessary. In addition to the usual chorus from industry, a bipartisan group of governors recently urged Congress to act. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and his new co-chair at Building America’s Future, former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, are promoting a 10-cent tax hike.
Lawmakers who had previously declined to go on the record were starting to line up behind various proposals, with Rep. Earl Blumenauer suggesting a gas tax hike and Sen. Barbara Boxer offering a wholesale fee on oil.
After all, the bitter reality is this: U.S DOT’s new Highway Trust Fund web ticker says the Highway Account will go dry in August of this year, with the Transit Account staying solvent through the end of September, though just barely.
At the same time Shuster announced he was for a vehicle-miles-traveled fee, he also brought the hammer down on the idea of a gas tax hike.
“Economically, it is not the time” to raise the gas tax, he told the audience. “I just don’t believe the American people have the will out there, in the public or in Congress; even our president has said we’re not going to do that. We’ve got to figure out a different way at this point in time.”