President Obama visited New York’s Tappen Zee Bridge on Wednesday to push a $302 billion transportation project, but as the White House is pushing for more infrastructure spending, Republicans and Democrats are at odds over how to pay for it.
The federal highway program currently relies on a tax of 18.4 cents on every gallon sold, bringing in $37.4 billion just last year. Still, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx just this week has said the highway fund is set to run dry as soon as August.
In an interview Wednesday night on FOX Business, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) said the problem isn’t the amount of money coming in, it’s where that money is going. That’s why he’s pushing a new bill that would phase the federal gas tax down from 18.4 cents per gallon, to 3.7 cents over five years, shifting the burden from the federal government to the states.
“The whole purpose of this is to put less of that money in the hands of the few of Washington and putting more of it in the hands of state legislators, where it belongs,” he said. “Since states don’t have to deal with federal regulations, they will be able to spend that money more effectively and efficiently.”
As Lee is pushing for the gas tax to wind down, Democrat Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has been pushing to increase the gas tax by 15 cents a gallon, a move that hasn’t gained support from fellow Democrats in an election year.
When asked to respond to Senator Lee’s bill, Rep. Blumenauer said, “We can’t afford that in our fragile economic recovery. It’s time to look for serious solutions to fund our transportation infrastructure, not introduce bills that would undercut the federal/state partnership and make the problem worse, not better.”
Rep. Blumenauer debated his plan to hike the gas tax in a heated exchange with Neil Cavuto on FOX late last year. You can see that interview here.
Cavuto asked if the money would be going exclusively toward repairing roads and bridges, pointing out that given the state of many roads in the country that seems unlikely.
“Where do you think [the money has] gone?" Blumenauer fired back.
Cavuto responded, "I don't know because our roads and bridges are for crap and this is after we've committed tens of billions of dollars each and every year through a variety of sources, and they're still falling apart."
As for funding the transportation bill, the White House says half of the revenue should come from the gas tax, and the other half closing a $120 billion corporate tax loophole. House Ways and Means Chairman, Republican, Dave Camp, has offered a similar solution, proposing to dedicate more than $126 billion from a corporate tax change to fund the Highway Trust Fund over 8 years. Neither plan is expected to pass through Congress this year.
Ralph Giordano is Senior Producer of “Cavuto”, airing 8PM on FOX Business Network. You can follow him on twitter @RalphGiordano.