Rep. Blumenauer Introduces Bills to Raise Gas Tax, Set up VMT Pilot Program

AASHTO Journal, 6 December 2013

Rep Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) this week introduced two bills aimed at raising revenue to more robustly invest in the nation’s aging transportation infrastructure.

Joined Wednesday by representatives from the transportation, commerce, and construction fields, as well as Congressional colleagues, Blumenauer introduced H.R. 3636, or the Update, Promote and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act. The bill would phase in a 15-cent-per-gallon federal gas/diesel tax increase over the next three years, which would raise the federal gas tax from 18.4 cents to 33.4 cents per gallon. The bill also would index the gas tax for inflation.

“The gas tax hasn’t been increased since the beginning of the Clinton administration,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “Today, with inflation and increased fuel efficiency for vehicles, the average motorist is paying about half as much per mile as they did in 1993. It’s time for Congress to act. There’s a broad and persuasive coalition that stands ready to support Congress. We just need to give them something to support.”

Blumenauer estimates the UPDATE Act would generate $170 billion in revenue for transportation infrastructure investment over the next 10 years. A copy of the bill is available here.

To coincide with introduction of the UPDATE Act, Blumenauer also brought forward H.R. 3638, the Road Usage Fee Pilot Program Act of 2013. H.R. 3638 would allow Congress to create a national VMT pilot program to study how the system would work on a large-scale level. Oregon has been a leader in the matter of mileage-based user fees, as the Oregon Department of Transportation has conducted multiple VMT pilots, the most recent of which began in November 2012 (see related AASHTO Journal story here). ODOT officials focused on “choice, transparency, ease of use, and protection of privacy” for the most recent pilot.

In addition, Oregon’s state legislature passed in July a measure that would make available to the public a voluntary mileage-based user fee system in place of a state fuel excise tax. The program allows up to 5,000 drivers the option of trying the system.

Blumenauer told Washington, D.C. publication The Hill that a VMT system is a long-term solution to the funding gaps that inevitably occur with the gas tax.

“As we extend the gas tax, we must also think about how to replace it with something more sustainable,” Blumenauer said, according to The Hill. “The best candidate would be the vehicle miles traveled fee being explored by pilot projects in Oregon and implemented there on a voluntary basis next year.”

The text of H.R. 3638 is available here.


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