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As infrastructure crumbles, gas tax hike should be on the table

  • Article by: Editorial Board
  • Star Tribune
  • February 26, 2014 - 6:26 PM

In July 2008, then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell met with the Star Tribune Editorial Board to discuss the nonprofit they had formed earlier that year to focus on the nation’s aging infrastructure.

Bloomberg, an independent, and Rendell, a Democrat, started Building America’s Future with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. Their bipartisan coalition has been advocating for increased investment in roads and bridges ever since.

Meanwhile, little progress has been made in Washington — a point made clear Wednesday with President Obama’s visit to St. Paul to tout a four-year, $302 billion transportation bill. (He’d cover half of that amount by overhauling corporate taxes.)

The nation’s Highway Trust Fund is nearing insolvency, in part because the 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax that provides most of its funds hasn’t been raised in 20 years and cars are becoming more fuel-efficient.

While Obama made his pitch in St. Paul, U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., proposed tax reform that would generate $126.5 billion in revenue for the trust fund over the next eight years.

Don’t bet on either the Obama or Camp proposals gaining momentum, although both have merit. And, unfortunately, neither side will consider a politically risky but prudent increase in the gas tax.

Obama made a strong argument in St. Paul, but it’s the same case Bloomberg and Rendell have been making to no avail since 2008. With the trust fund scheduled to go bust as soon as August and infrastructure needs growing greater every day, there’s no more time to waste.

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