House Transportation Chair's Infrastructure Plan Includes Gas Tax Increase

Retiring House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has released an ambitious federal infrastructure plan. The "discussion draft" addresses transportation and water infrastructure, project delivery, and funding.

Unlike the proposal made earlier this year by the Trump administration, the Shuster plan specifically addresses the thorniest issue for infrastructure policy: how to pay for it.

Under Chairman Shuster's approach, the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund would be addressed by shoring up the federal gas tax in the near term with a 15-cent phased increase (20 cents for diesel). Increases would be phased in over three years and then indexed to inflation.

Over the longer term, Shuster aims to replace the gas tax.

The levy would be eliminated in 2028. In the meantime, he proposed a new five-year national pilot program for a vehicle miles traveled fee that would test the viability of VMT as a gas tax replacement. A commission, modeled on the military base closure commissions, would be charged with proposing a gas tax replacement and Congress would be bound to have an up-or-down vote on the proposal.

APA has urged Congress to take action on the long-term sustainability of transportation funding. In a letter to Capitol Hill following the release of the Trump infrastructure plan, APA President Cynthia Bowen, FAICP, urged congressional leaders to both shore up the trust fund and identify new revenue solutions.

Among its other provisions, the Shuster plan would extend the FAST Act for an additional year, reauthorize key water infrastructure programs, and reauthorize the Economic Development Administration.

He also calls for an expanded grant program for infrastructure projects with a set-aside for grants that incentivize private sector involvement. The proposal also contains language expediting project delivery, including limiting NEPA reviews to two years.

The proposal faces long odds in an election year. However, it could form the basis for action in the next Congress with elements that could appeal to leaders on both sides of the aisle.

In a statement, Chairman Shuster stated that he hoped the plan would "reignite" the infrastructure discussions with the goal of finding "real solutions that give America the modern infrastructure it needs."

The Shuster infrastructure plan comes just days after another House Republican, Climate Solutions Caucus co-founder Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), introduced carbon tax legislation that would provide funding for infrastructure investment.

Top image: Prices at the gas pump, with gas taxes included. Getty Images photo.

About the Author
Jason Jordan is APA's director of policy.

July 24, 2018

By Jason Jordan