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Congressman Pushes $27 Billion Tax Hike On Drivers
Oregon congressman introduces legislation to boost transit programs by nearly doubling the federal gasoline excise tax.

Earl Blumenauer
The leading advocate of bicycling in the US Congress wants drivers to pay an extra $27 billion a year at the gas pump. US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) this morning will hold a press conference to unveil his legislative proposal to add 15 cents to the existing 18.4 cent tax on gasoline. The new revenue would be sent to the Highway Trust Fund to back a massive increase in spending on bicycle paths, light rail and related transit programs. In the long term, Blumenauer would like to replace the gas tax with per-mile tax on drivers, and he would spend $150 million to promote the concept.

"In order to fund all economically justified projects, the Department of Transportation estimates that Congress would need to provide $83 billion a year in addition to current funding," Blumenauer explained in a statement on his bill, which he calls the Update Act. "When the current surface transportation authorization ends at the end of Fiscal Year 2014, Trust Fund balances will nearly be exhausted. In order to maintain current funding in the following years, the Highway Trust Fund will need almost $15 billion a year (in addition to current gas tax receipts). If we do not find a way to make the Highway Trust Fund solvent, the continued disinvestment will mean an over 30 percent drop in federal transportation spending by 2024. "

To justify the increased taxes and spending, Blumenauer cites the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission and two surface transportation panels that advocated higher motoring taxes. Representatives from various transportation unions and other prospective recipients of new funding also endorse the concept. Blumenauer cites opinion surveys that support the imposition of a GPS tracking tax on motorists.

"A number of states, including Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, Iowa, Texas, and New York have tested pilot projects where they charged drivers for the number of miles they traveled rather than the fuel they consumed," a statement from Blumenauer's office explained. "The tests have proved convenient for drivers, demonstrated strong protections for personal privacy, and have been easily administrable."

As chairman of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus, Blumenauer last month introduced HR 3494, which would require the US Department of Transportation to measure the number of injuries and fatalities for pedestrians and cyclists in the same way that the department measures automobile accidents per vehicle mile traveled.

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