Concern is building that coming climate change legislation in the Senate could propose a tax on motor fuels that would divert some future fees from the Highway Trust Fund.
A bipartisan bill to fight carbon-caused warming of the planet could emerge later this month from Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
They are reportedly considering new taxes on oil-derived fuels to offset carbon-reducing incentives their bill would offer. That recently prompted Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari to say the administration remains opposed to raising fuel taxes while the economy is trying to recover from the recession. (See “DOT Rebuffs New Talk of Raising Fuel Taxes”)
Last week, more than two dozen industry and state agency groups that depend on trust fund monies for surface transport construction projects called on those senators to avoid offering new motor fuel taxes for anything other than the dedicated funding stream to support infrastructure.
“Any proposal to divert user fees from motor fuels while our roads, bridges and transit systems are neglected is not sound policy,” said the coalition. Signers included American Trucking Associations, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Highway Users Alliance and the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department.
This week, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and seven other Democratic senators also wrote the climate bill drafters, worried that a climate-related fuel tax could threaten their efforts to pass a new multi-year surface transportation bill this year that would include extra funding they say is needed to catch up with critical infrastructure needs.
Reuters reported April 7 that the climate measure may offer a new oil industry tax at the terminal, according to Senate sources, instead of a per-gallon fee such as is now assessed on gasoline and highway diesel, and on diesel used by barge line operators for lock repairs. But Reuters said no decision has been made on whether to deposit money from the new tax into the Highway Trust Fund.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said the administration will offer its own principles in coming months to guide future legislation on multi-year surface transport spending. But no final legislation is expected to emerge ahead of congressional elections in November.
Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.