Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) have a proposal that calls for hiking gasoline and diesel taxes by six cents in each of the next two years, for a total increase of 12 cents. This idea is that raising the tax would be enough to cover the National Highway Trust Fund’s projected $160 billion revenue shortfall over the next decade.
The problem with raising the gas tax is the impact it would have on everyday Americans, millions of whom who travel to and from work every weekday. Most Americans have little disposable income to begin with thanks to personal income lagging behind inflation and the surge in gas prices thanks to the terror attacks in Iraq. An additional 12-cent increase in the gas tax would put gas prices right back to all-time highs reached in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Putting American households under this sort of added pressure is foolish.
It gets worse. To insulate themselves from that tax increase charge, Corker and Murphy would offset this new revenue by permanently restoring $190 billion in targeted tax breaks that expired last December. These tax breaks mostly benefited big business and special interest groups rather than working Americans. So the senators are basically proposing cutting taxes on the wealthy while hiking them on the rest. That’s a political winner right there.
While hiking the gas tax is not the answer, steps do need to be taken to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure and shore up the Trust Fund. It is unacceptable that 10% of our nation’s 600,000 bridges are unstable and another 14% are outdated. There also is a need for improved highways and tunnels as well. The Trust Fund cannot pay for these improvements right now.
There are multiple ways to cover this shortfall without raising the gasoline tax and harming the financial situation of millions of Americans. One step Congress could take is to pocket the money it saved by letting last year’s tax extenders expire and putting the money back into transportation. Another common sense step according to Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) would be eliminating the 20% of the Trust Fund that is not spent on roads. There is also a bill introduced by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) that would create a fund for emergency transportation projects paid for by repatriating overseas capital back to the United States.
Fixing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure should be a national priority. Raising taxes on struggling Americans to pay for it, however, is not the answer.