Drivers could find it more expensive to fill their gas tanks if two members of Congress succeed in their latest proposal.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have formed a bipartisan proposal to raise the federal gasoline and diesel taxes, increasing them by 6 cents each year for the next two years.
The proposal also suggests indexing the gas tax, which means it would be adjusted each year to reflect price changes caused by inflation.
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The tax proposal aims to support the deteriorating Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Account of the fund is expected to “encounter a shortfall before the end of fiscal year (FY) 2014,” according to the Department of Transportation Highway Trust Fund Ticker. The fund may officially go into debt in July.
The Highway Trust Fund links gas tax money and highway construction. It provides for federal programs that assist transportation needs on state and national levels.
The last time the gas tax was raised was in 1993, when President Bill Clinton signed a bill to increase it by 4.3 cents, bringing it to a total tax of 18.4 cents per gallon.
This is still the current federal gas tax today, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Connecticut has the fifth-highest gas prices in the country, according to a USA Today ranking, published in March. At 49.3 cents, Connecticut state gas taxes are among the highest in the U.S.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, newly-elected House Majority Leader, expressed opposition to increasing gas taxes, according to CNBC. He suggested finding a broader solution that doesn’t involve raising taxes for families.
But Murphy told a Hearst reporter that for every penny Connecticut taxpayers spend on federal transportation taxes, they get 1.6 cents in return in federal transportation funding.
Politicians may have avoided raising the gas tax in recent years because the federal government has been borrowing from its General Fund to offset the transportation shortfall.
Not long after this fiscal year began, the federal government transferred $11.7 billion (after sequestration reductions) from its General Fund into Highway Trust Fund accounts, according to the ticker.
Murphy and Corker’s proposal reports that Congress has moved more than $50 billion from the General Fund into the Highway Trust Fund.
The senators’ proposal attempts to sweeten the deal by balancing the cost of higher gas taxes with net tax relief for families and businesses.
One idea is “permanently extending some of the tax provisions in the ‘tax extenders’ bill,” according to the proposal.
The tax extenders’ bill could renew tax breaks that Congress let expire, according to Forbes, such as extenders for teaching deductions, mass transit and parking benefits and higher education benefits. Permanently extending some of these “could give $190 billion in tax relief over the next 10 years,” the senators' proposal reported.
But for now, it’s unclear if that will be enough to change the 21-year-trend of unchanging federal gas taxes.
“I know raising the gas tax isn’t an easy choice, but we’re not elected to make easy decisions – we’re elected to make the hard ones,” Murphy said in a news release.