House Republicans are exploring options to bolster surface transportation funding, perhaps even replacing the current per-gallon gas tax with a new revenue system, said the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., told an infrastructure conference Friday morning those options include finding ways to augment the current Highway Trust Fund receipts that are built mainly from taxing gasoline and diesel fuel.
However, “there’s also the possibility of doing away with it and adopting something else,” he said, noting that House Speaker John Boehner has mentioned that option in some recent comments.
Mica told the conference, sponsored by the Washington Post and Norfolk Southern Railway, that “a gas tax increase is off the table.” But staff from the House leadership and his T&I committee are reviewing other ways to raise enough money to keep highway programs funded at current levels or even higher.
Earlier this year, Mica proposed limiting a new six-year highway bill to revenue already coming into the trust fund, which would be a sharp reduction from current spending levels. He said a recent decision by GOP leaders to now look for major sources of new revenue for transportation was “a major breakthrough” and removed the biggest obstacle to crafting a long-term bill.
Mica would not say if fuel taxes could be replaced with something like a vehicle miles tax on all users of the highway system.
The GOP is also looking at capturing new revenue for transportation from oil drilling income, Mica said. On that idea, “we have some scoring issues,” he said, “and then we have to make certain we have the votes.” Scoring refers to how budget experts count the money that can be raised by a revenue proposal.