The federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is funded mainly through a federal tax on gasoline. If Americans use less gas – due to a bad economy, high prices or better fuel efficiency – there is less money in the trust fund. That means the federal government has less money to spend on roads, bridges, bike paths and highway hydrangeas.
Over the past several years, various Obama officials have suggested increasing the gas tax or switching to a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Tax, which would require every car to have a tracking device in their car to monitor and report miles driven. Both seem untenable, especially the big brother-style VMT Tax.
Interestingly, one of the biggest proponents of increasing federal transportation spending (especially on mass transit) is coming to grips with the possibility that the federal government should just get out of the transportation business.
Earlier this month, Congressman Steve LaTourette (R-OH) told Politico’s Morning Transportation:
“Somebody’s got to come to grips with this thing. The conservatives want to send it all back to the states. That’s going to be attractive unless we fix the trust fund problem. If we don’t fix the trust fund problem it should just go back to the states…If we’re going to continue business as usual as we have for 20 years, we’ve got to find the money. And raising the gas tax is our only move.”
Congress needs to start treating the American people with respect, and not shy away from an intellectually honest debate. Higher federal taxes or turn back control to the states. This is the debate Americans deserve, and $5 per gallon gas will only accelerate the urgency to get it right.
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