Tags: Tom Cole | gas tax | infrastructure | roads

Rep. Tom Cole: Raising Gas Tax Not the Way to Go

By    |   Friday, 09 Jan 2015 03:50 PM

Just when gas prices at the pump finally are headed downward, leave it to Congress to start eyeing an opportunity to raise more money for highway infrastructure improvements by, you guessed it, raising the gasoline tax.

However, one influential member of Congress, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., thinks there are better ways to raise the needed money than by reaching into drivers' pockets at the filling station.

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"Most of my constituents would say, ‘Don’t take away the benefits of lower prices,'" Cole told C-SPAN's Washington Journal.

He said that while more revenue is needed, "a gas tax is probably not the way to go," and indicated that he would prefer completely replacing the gas tax with a different method of raising infrastructure funds.

Cole, a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, added, "We have whole new fleets of vehicles coming on, electric cars, compressed natural gas, that don’t pay any gas tax at all, but they’re still using the roads. So we’re going to have to redesign the revenue system.

"You could actually maybe eliminate the gas tax which now only covers part of the vehicles and a shrinking number and go to a more baseline tax."

An increase in the gas tax, which supporters prefer to refer to as "user fees," seems to be gaining bipartisan support in the Senate, while lagging behind in the House, The Hill notes.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are among those who have floated out an indication that they might favor such an increase.

However, while The Hill quoted House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as stating, "A highway bill is critically important. It’s a priority for this year. How we’ll fund it — we are going to have to work our way through this," C-SPAN noted that he also said, "When the Democrats had total control of the Congress, they couldn’t find the votes to raise the gas tax. It’s doubtful that the votes are here to raise the gas tax again."

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, commented to The Hill, "My guess is there's far more interest in the Senate than there is in the House."

The Hill notes that a gas tax increase has not taken place since 1993 and the tax contributes only about $34 billion per year, while federal spending on highway infrastructure amounts to around $50 billion per year, for an annual deficit. Federal transportation costs have increased by about $16 billion each year due to increased construction costs and more fuel-efficient cars.

Inhofe told The Hill, "The user fee is very, very popular. The evidence of that is a lot of states are doing that on their own because, 'Well, if the federal government won't do it, we've got to do something about the roads.'"

Hatch told The Hill, "People who use the highways ought to pay for them. That's a small price to pay to have the best highway system in the world. And that may be where we're going to have to go."

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Just when gas prices at the pump finally are headed downward, leave it to Congress to start eyeing an opportunity to raise more money for highway infrastructure improvements by, you guessed it, raising the gasoline tax.
Tom Cole, gas tax, infrastructure, roads
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2015-50-09
Friday, 09 Jan 2015 03:50 PM
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