We write in strong opposition to legislation (H.R. 6787/S. 3609) introduced in Congress to suspend the federal gasoline tax. Suspending the federal gas tax in the name of “economic relief” is misguided, does not promise a reduction in cost at the pump, and could undermine the infrastructure improvements our state is poised to realize under the recently enacted, bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
Critical federal investment in our nation’s transportation infrastructure is funded primarily through a “user pays” system via excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel deposited into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). These taxes have not increased since 1993, and the purchasing power of the gas tax has declined by over 60 percent since that time. Additionally, since 2008, the HTF has faced a chronic funding deficit, which Congress has struggled to fill with multiple transfers from the federal government’s general revenue account.
Unfortunately, the recently introduced legislation to temporarily suspend the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gasoline user fee would further detract from that funding method. Such a move, which offers no promise of tax savings being passed on to the consumer, is ill-conceived, as Congress carefully negotiated a revenue structure that will pay for the IIJA just three months ago.
This bipartisan infrastructure bill, which represents the largest investment in our nation’s infrastructure since the creation of the Interstate Highway System, is set to provide important resources for our state to build and upgrade all facets of our infrastructure, better connect our communities and provide long-term, sustainable jobs. There has never been a more important time to ensure the funding methods for federal infrastructure investment are not weakened or jeopardized.
A suspension of the gas tax, no matter how brief or even if Congress moves to replace the lost revenue through a transfer of funds, undermines the already depleted user-pay system the Highway Trust Fund is built upon, and will make it harder to fund improvements of our nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems in the future.
As such, we oppose these efforts to suspend the federal gasoline tax. We believe Congressional efforts would be better spent by completing the fiscal year 2022 appropriations process to fully deliver the first year of investment provided for by the IIJA to our state.