Senators call for federal gas tax hike
By Mary Troyan
January 11, 2015
WASHINGTON — Low gas prices have rekindled talk on Capitol Hill about raising the federal gas tax to eliminate huge annual deficits in the federal Highway Trust Fund that pays for road and bridge work around the country.
While some top Republicans remain adamant a tax hike is not the answer, there are signs that the idea, including one from Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, is at least getting a fresh look.
Corker and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have proposed raising the federal gas tax by 12 cents over two years and indexing it to inflation. To make the concept more palatable to fiscal conservatives, the measure would lower other taxes.
The 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993. As vehicles have become more efficient, the revenue generated by the tax has dropped. Current stopgap funding for the Highway Trust Fund expires in May, and transportation officials in Tennessee and other states are holding back projects until uncertainty about the federal money is addressed.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said this week a gas tax increase could not be ruled out. Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, agreed.
They did not endorse Corker's bill, but their comments represent more of an opening than when gas prices topped $4 a gallon.
"What we floated is obvious. There is not enough money coming in," Corker said last week.