Oregon Congressman Has Idea for Higher Gas Tax

By Tom Bacon

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer probably knows perfectly well how to define the word "quixotic."
He's on a quest that to most politicians - and gasoline buyers - may seem impractical.

Blumenauer, the Portland area Democrat who rides bicycles and wears bow ties, thinks it's time to tackle a growing transportation funding deficit that's been growing for 20 years now. He wants to double the federal gasoline tax. And he's pushing the idea hard in a Congress - and to a public - which are firmly and sometimes vociferously -opposed to any tax increase, no matter how great the need.

Blumenauer points out that because of inflation, the amount the average driver pays per mile that they drive has been cut in half over the past two decades. But letting the federal tax languish at 18.4 cents a gallon, even as construction and maintenance costs have soared during the same time, means that the federal highway fund is wheezing as the money needle drops toward empty.

The tax now generates about $35 billion a year for road and transit projects. But Blumenauer said the most recent surface transportation bill included about $54 billion in projects, the bare minimum to maintain highways and bridges in the current transportation system. He said Congress has drawn the gas tax trust fund down so far that if lawmakers do nothing, the country - as he put it - will face an inability to fund any transit projects next year, and money for highways will drop 92 percent. It's time to face up, he said.
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