Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gas Tax

Hopefully, this tax increase will not happen. That could put some gas above $4.00 a gallon.

Congressional commission recommends 25-cent gas tax hike
Michael Cabanatuan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A congressional committee will recommend an increase of at least 25 cents in the federal gas tax Tuesday as part of a complete overhaul of the way the federal government plans and funds the nation's transportation system.

The 12-member National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission was assembled by Congress in 2005 to come up with a vision for how to preserve and enhance the nation's roads, highways, railroads and transit systems. Over 20 months, the committee held dozens of meetings and 10 hearings at sites around the country.

The panel's recommendations call for reforming and restructuring the way the federal government selects, funds and constructs projects - currently a disjointed process that committee member Steve Heminger, executive director of the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said lacks direction.

"We're trying to focus the federal effort in areas where there is a national interest at stake," he said.

Federal transportation programs number more than 100, Heminger said, and the committee is recommending they be cut to 10 focused on clear objectives, including restoring the nation's transportation infrastructure, improving mobility in metropolitan areas and speeding the movement of goods to and from the nation's ports.

But such improvements will be costly. The nation spends about $85 billion a year on transportation at the federal, state and local levels, but needs to spend about $225 billion, the committee concluded.

To foot the bill, the committee is suggesting an increase in the federal gas tax. The tax of 18.4 cents per gallon hasn't been raised since 1983, despite an increasing number of cars and drivers and the resulting huge increase in congestion.

The committee recommends a 5-cents-per-gallon increase in the tax for each of the next five years along with per-container freight fees at ports, ticket taxes for passenger rail systems and the ability for state and local officials to impose congestion tolls and enter private-public partnerships. Absent those other sources, Heminger said, the gas tax would need to rise 8 cents per gallon for each of the next five years.

While the committee's members agreed on the need for change, Heminger said, three members appointed by the Bush administration - including Transportation Secretary Mary Peters - oppose raising the gasoline tax. But the other nine members - five appointed by Republicans in Congress, four by Democrats - concur with the increase.