Monday, January 05, 2009

50% Hike in Gas Tax Pushed


A 50 percent increase in gasoline and diesel-fuel taxes is being urged by a federal commission to finance highway construction and repair until the government devises another way for motorists to pay for using public roads.

The National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing, a 15-member panel created by Congress, is the second group in a year to call for higher fuel taxes.

With motorists driving less and buying less fuel, the current 18.4-cent-a-gallon gas tax and 24.4-cent diesel tax are failing to raise enough to keep pace with the cost of road, bridge and transit programs.

In a report expected in late January, commission members say they will urge Congress to raise the gas tax 10 cents a gallon and the diesel-fuel tax 12 to 15 cents a gallon.

At the same time, the commission will recommend tying fuel-tax rates to inflation. It also will recommend that states raise their fuel taxes and make greater use of toll roads and fees for rush hour driving.

Such tax increases would be politically treacherous for Democratic leaders in Congress - a gas-tax increase was one of the reasons they lost control of the House and Senate in the 1994 elections.

President-elect Barack Obama has expressed concern about raising gas taxes in this economic climate. Commission members said the government must find the money somewhere.

"The reality is, our current gas tax doesn't pay for upkeep of the system we have now," said commission member Adrian Moore, vice president of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Los Angeles. "We can either let the roads go to hell, or we can pay more."

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