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ATA presses for fuel tax bump as fix for highway funding, calls tolls ‘massive waste’

The American Trucking Associations has issued a bulletin lobbying Congress to raise per-gallon gas and diesel taxes to stabilize U.S. funding for roads and bridges. ATA’s Build America Fund plan calls for bumping up the per-mile tax on gas and diesel a nickel per year over four years as a means “to fund the modernization of our deteriorating network of roads and bridges,” the trucking trade group and lobbyist said in an announcement on Tuesday.

While its announcement doesn’t specifically mention President Trump’s ideas to use tolls and other privatized funding options (outlined here in a six-page document alleged leaked from the White House and touted in recent years by Trump on both the campaign trail and after assuming the presidency), ATA calls tolls “a massive waste of taxpayer money.”

“So-called ‘creative financing’ tools are a road to nowhere, as study after study shows the shortfalls of tolling and the unintended consequences that tolls impose on motorists and surrounding communities,” said Chris Spear, ATA President and CEO. “There is nothing ‘conservative’ about tolling.”

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ATA says its plan for raising fuel taxes would drum up $340 billion for highway and bridge projects over the next decade. Trucking would pay a $112 billion of that additional $340 billion in that time, ATA estimates. It says the average passenger car driver would pay only $100 a year in additional taxes. Per-gallon fuel tax rates haven’t been increased in 25 years. Gasoline taxes have been 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993. Diesel has been taxed at 24.4 cents a gallon.

The Highway Trust Fund, supported by a consumption fuel tax, will go broke in [the 2021 fiscal year],” ATA’s bulletin says. “At that point, the federal government will either raid the general treasury – Americans hard-earned tax dollars – to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent, as it has done several times since 2008, or allow the HTF to fail, causing the cancellation or delay of critical transportation projects and throwing hundreds of thousands of people out of work.”

Trump’s plan instead calls for offering incentives, such as low-interest financing and revenue from tolls, to draw in private investors and greater investments from states for infrastructure projects. The White House’s plan has been met with stiff resistance from groups who oppose tolls, as well as questions about whether such a plan could really fix the country’s highway funding woes.

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James Jaillet is Senior Editor for Overdrive and the Commercial Carrier Journal. Reach him at jjaillet@randallreilly.com.