Congressman Earl Blumenauer
Congressional Record: 114th Congress
July 14, 2015
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer) for 5 minutes.
Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, this is a big day on Capitol Hill. The Iranian agreement has been signed. Hopefully, we will all have a chance to study it and think through the implications of this historic event, but the legislative clock is ticking down on another area. We have only 10 legislative days left this month before we face another transportation funding cliff.
The expectation now is that there will be a 34th short-term transportation extension that we have faced since our last, meaningful 6-year reauthorization. People are scrambling for another short-term funding source to keep us going for the next few months that targets, presumably, $8 billion to $11 billion to get us through the end of the year.
This is actually worse than no solution at all because it perpetuates the uncertainty, the crisis mentality, the inability of State and local governments that rely on this Federal partnership to supply approximately one-half of the capital expenditures for our surface transportation.
This uncertainty comes at a time when our bridges, roads, and transit systems are all in serious areas of disrepair. We are desperately in need of bigger, longer-term projects.
It is a myth that somehow we can't afford to take action. The public is paying now hundreds of dollars a year in damage to each of their vehicles, costs far in excess of a few cents a day for a gas tax increase.
American commuters and businesses are suffering over $120 billion a year in costs related to congestion, costs directly related to inadequate infrastructure. People are tying themselves in knots when there is a simple, obvious solution.
As pointed out in a delightful op-ed in The Washington Post on July 9, we should simply follow Ronald Reagan's example and fill up America's highway trust fund.
They ask how the famously tax-cutting conservative President raised the Federal user fee--the gas tax--on motor fuels 125 percent. While he was concerned about general taxation, he was absolutely comfortable with having user fees cover specific costs like the fuel tax for aviation or inland waterway fees.
He worked with Republicans in Congress, who demonstrated significant support for user fee increases. He then gave his Secretary of Transportation, Drew Lewis, free hand to lay the groundwork.
Finally, when he decided to support a gas tax increase, his Department of Transportation swung into action, as did Ronald Reagan himself. He gave an eloquent speech November 29, 1982, on
Thanksgiving Day, calling on Congress to come back into session and approve the gas tax increase.
We have the opportunity for such leadership today. My proposed gas tax increase, H.R. 680, is supported by all the major interest groups: unions, the Chamber of Commerce, truckers, AAA, transit, local government, environmentalists, engineers, and contractors.
The same approach has been used in 20 States since 2012 to raise transportation revenues. Six States have raised the gas tax already this year, six red Republican States. It is simple. My bill would provide the money necessary to actually pass a 6-year bill. It would be sustainable so we wouldn't be back in the same pickle in a year, 2 years, or 5 years.
Finally, it is dedicated so people can count upon it to implement the steps necessary to rebuild and renew America's infrastructure.
It is time to stop temporizing, and it is time to act. Filling the highway trust fund with borrowed money inadequate to do the job but enough to avoid responsibility is not a solution that we can be proud of, especially when America is ready and Ronald Reagan pointed the way.
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