Wearing his signature bicycle pin Wednesday, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., took the podium to announce his bill to nearly double the federal gas tax.
The Portland congressman's plan would gradually increase the federal gas tax over a three-year period. The money would go to rebuild roads and bridges across the country, which Blumenauer says are in disrepair. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the country has $2 trillion worth of projects that need to be completed.
Today, drivers pay just over 18 cents per gallon in federal taxes, though states also tax the fuel. . Under Blumenauer's proposal, they'd pay more than 33 cents.
"The gas tax hasn't been increased since the beginning of the Clinton administration," Blumenauer said during a press conference. "Today, with inflation and increased fuel efficiency for vehicles, the average motorist is paying about half as much per mile as they did in 1993. It's time for Congress to act."
Groups who support the increase in the gas tax range from unions to UPS.
"Congressman Blumenauer's UPDATE Act provides a much needed boost to our nation's surface transportation infrastructure," Laura Lane, the public affairs president at UPS, said in a release. "UPS alone travels more than 2.3 billion miles on America's roads each year... Increasing the federal motor fuels tax is a long-overdue proposal to provide the dedicated funding needed to maintain our highways."
Other groups, however, argue there are other ways to improve the federal highway system that don't involve filling the federal government's coffers.
"The gas tax is yesterday's solution to our highway congestion problems," says Chris Edwards, the director of tax policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. "The federal government should reduce its role in highway financing and the states should take a larger role."
Edwards says, however, that Blumenauer's bill isn't likely to get very far in the Republican House.
"There is no way Republicans are going to raise the gas tax," Edwards says. "They know from the party's brand name perspective, they cannot raise the gas tax."