Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 10.22.15
Just Outside Washington


Raise the US gas tax

The U.S. Congress is not doing its job. A number of important issues are not being addressed, transportation infrastructure is a key one. We cannot build bridges and fix roads without money. If Congress did their job and funded the Highway Trust Fund, we could build bridges and fix roads, and put U.S. citizens to work.

I recently sent this e-mail here in Virginia to my Senators and Representatives..

The members of the U.S. Congress need to do their job.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's 2013 "Report to Congress on the Conditions and Performance of the Nation's Highways, Bridges and Transit," the federal, state and local governments should have invested $95.6 billion in highway improvements during 2014 just to maintain current physical and performance conditions on the nation's highways and bridges.

The cost to improve our nation's highways by making all investments with a positive benefit-cost ratio would have been $161.7 billion in FY 2014. This cost will grow to $184.2 billion in five (5) years. So far, Congress has done nothing.

Additional money is needed for transit and rail projects - - last year the shortfall for transit maintenance alone was over $2 billion. The results are obvious - - witness the state of Washington Metro and the track curve that ultimately caused the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia.

The Highway Trust Fund, which pays for improvements and construction of roads, bridges, and transit systems, is funded by the federal gasoline tax, currently 18.4 cents a gallon.

This tax has not been raised since 1993, and the revenues have lagged far behind the needs mentioned above. Since 1993, inflation has nearly doubled the cost of goods and services in the U.S. We are trying to pay for 2015 transportation using 1993 dollars.

An immediate solution is to raise the federal gasoline tax. Merely restoring the tax to its 1993 level would add 12 cents a gallon bringing the total tax to 30 cents a gallon. That is catch-up ball. Congress should also add an additional 20 cents and index the tax for inflation..

Two years ago the price of gasoline was almost $4 per gallon; yesterday I filled up for $2.06 per gallon. Given the world glut of oil, gasoline should remain cheap for the near future. The time is right for an increase in the tax.

I understand that there is a transportation funding proposal in the Senate to raise $9 billion by selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

With oil below $50 per barrel, that's just plain stupid! The rule is, "buy low, sell high".