An Illinois congressman says an increase in the federal gas tax should be considered. The tax, 18.4 cents per gallon, hasn’t gone up since 1993. It has lost one-third of its purchasing power since then due to inflation, and more fuel-efficient vehicles are keeping a lid on gallons sold.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) says that has revenue coming up short. “The highway trust fund, which funds most of this, the highway trust fund is dwindling. The federal gas tax is no longer providing enough money to keep spending at a constant level even, much less raise spending,” he said.
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The current federal transportation program depends on general fund revenue. Lipinski says it’s preferable to pay for transportation with the fuel tax.
Lipinski says raising the tax is an option, either to the rate of consumer inflation, which would raise an additional $50 billion over 10 years, or the rate of construction inflation, which would raise an extra $150 billion over 10 years. The tax now brings in about $25 billion a year.
Other options to generate transportation funds identified by the U.S. Department of Transportation include tolls, tire taxes and tariffs on foreign oil. Lipinski says all of this should be on the table; he isn’t identifying a preference except to say that indexing the motor fuel tax “makes sense.”