The Department of Transportation’s chief financial officer became the latest administration official to speak out against raising motor fuel taxes to bolster federal revenue and infrastructure spending.
Christopher Bertram made the remarks as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s highways and transit panel, in an April 14 hearing on financing alternatives.
Asked about prospects for a new multiyear surface transportation bill, and whether he agrees that most analysts favor raising the federal gasoline tax, Bertram said, “I think the administration has been pretty clear that in this economic climate we don’t think a gas tax increase is appropriate.”
Lawmakers usually use “gas tax” as shorthand for overall per-gallon fees on motor fuels, which also apply to diesel used by the trucking industry. Most such federal tax money goes into the Highway Trust Fund, and then is largely distributed to states under established formulas.
The fuel tax keeps coming up, and members of Congress keep asking DOT officials about it, partly from concern over making sure there is a dedicated funding stream for future transportation programs and partly because a group of senators is eyeing new fuel fees in a climate bill they will unveil soon. (“Climate Bill Tax Seen Competing With Highway Fee”.)
Bertram, who is also the DOT’s assistant secretary for budget and programs, told the House subcommittee that “we do support extra investment in infrastructure; that’s why we included the infrastructure fund in the president’s budget request.”
That would be a new $4 billion fund under which DOT officials could make discretionary grants and loans to specific construction projects, outside the normal aid stream to states for their highway needs.
So far, the administration has not offered a plan to raise targeted fees to fund a future multiyear transportation spending program. It has instead relied on the economic stimulus bill, which came out of general revenue, to boost transportation infrastructure spending in 2009 and this year, and proposed continuing that concept by establishing an ongoing fund starting with the next budget.
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