Washington, D.C. — Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), a Member of the Ways & Means Committee, announced that he will reintroduce the UPDATE Act: Update, Promote, and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials. This bill increases the gas tax to fund the repair of our failing infrastructure.
While others in the House and Senate have discussed or outlined legislative ideas to raise the gasoline tax, Blumenauer is the only member of either chamber to actually introduce such a bill since 1995. He has held quarterly stakeholder meetings on the issue over the years, including representatives from labor, business, local government, transit, environmental organizations, the truckers, AAA, and cycling groups that have helped build the momentum we’re now seeing coalesce around his proposal.
Over the last two weeks, a bipartisan group of eight Senators have signaled that they either support a gas tax increase or have made clear that such an option should remain on the table (Senators Corker (R-TN), Murphy (D-CT), Thune (R-SD), Hatch (R-UT), Inhofe (R-OK), Durbin (D-IL), Collins (R-ME), Carper (D-DE)). More than 130 House Members are urging leadership to “develop a long-term, sustainable revenue source for our nation’s transportation network as soon as possible.”
Editorial support has been even more robust, with The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and the LA Times reaffirming their support for this approach. Congressman Blumenauer has been laying the groundwork with stakeholders off the Hill, and his efforts are finally starting to reverberate in the Capitol.
For too long now, Congress has let our infrastructure fall into neglect. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that our surface transportation infrastructure needs more than $2 trillion of investment in order for the U.S. to remain economically competitive.
To reverse this decline, Rep. Blumenauer is preparing to reintroduce legislation in early February that phases in a 15 cent gas tax increase over three years, indexes the gas tax to inflation, and then confirms Congress’s intention to replace the gas tax with a more equitable, stable source of funding by 2024. This task is made easier by the fact that gas prices have fallen for more than 100 days and are now at their lowest levels since 2009.
While Blumenauer’s proposed 15 cent increase would cost the average motorist about $80 a year, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association estimates that motorists currently pay an additional $377 per year for automobile repairs and maintenance due to poor road conditions — costs for drivers that will only grow if Congress again falls short of stopping the backslide.
“Failing to address the funding issue head on has meant that we haven’t had a 6 year reauthorization since one was last approved in 1997. That means we have had 21 temporary extensions and two ever-shorter reauthorizations, and borrowed over $100 billion of general fund money to barely prop up the system. No great country was built or economic recovery secured by planning and funding its infrastructure six months at a time,” stated Congressman Blumenauer.
“We should capitalize on falling oil prices, on the momentum that is building, and on the stark realization that we need to act now. America cannot afford to continue to disinvest in our infrastructure, and in turn the future prosperity of our economy,” he continued.
Blumenauer is now seeking original sponsors for the UPDATE Act, which he plans to introduce in early February.
After years of advocacy, momentum is growing:
• Strong editorial support is increasing from a variety of newspapers across the country, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and the LA Times.
• Already, eight Senators from both parties have been identified as either supporting a gas tax increase or being open to it. These include Senators Carper, Corker, Collins, Murphy, Thune, Hatch, Inhofe, and Durbin.
• In the House, 136 members have signed a bipartisan letter urging the leadership to act on providing appropriate funding that is sustainable and dedicated.
• Leadership at the state level is growing. Eight states in the last two years have increased the gas tax — including Wyoming and New Hampshire.
• Just as importantly, people know America is falling behind as it’s falling apart. A recent AAA survey found that 68 percent of Americans want greater federal investment in transportation infrastructure and 67 percent think that a fuel tax is an appropriate way to pay for that investment.
Rep. Blumenauer’s legislation would raise $210 billion over the next decade, making up the Highway Trust Fund shortfall and boosting infrastructure spending by at least $4.6 billion a year.