A bipartisan group in the House led by Republican Jim Renacci of Ohio and Democrat Bill Pascrell of New Jersey have proposed a billto create a powerful new tax-hike task force and to impose automatic annual increases in the federal gas tax through inflation indexing, which would reportedly raise $27.5 billion through the end of next year.
The bill’s “Bipartisan Task Force for Sustainable Highway Funding” would have 18 members, two appointed by the president and eight each from the House and Senate – half Democrats and half Republicans. If 12 of the 18 agree on a set of recommendations, the task force would produce a bill that would receive expedited consideration in Congress – just seven calendar days in committee and then two days before a House floor vote. No amendments would be allowed. The Senate would also consider the bill within two days, with limited debate and with all points of order – including budget rules – automatically waived.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because it follows the model of the infamous Super Committee that failed to produce a budget deal, leading to sequestration taking effect. But unlike sequestration, which is ham-handed but has the salutary effect of cutting government spending, if the task force fails to produce an agreement, the result would be an automatic tax hike.
In fact, gas taxes would nearly double if the task force failed to reach agreement.
While some argue that the decline in gas prices over the past year will make steep gas tax hikes less painful, the truth is wage growth has been stagnant for several years, and higher gas taxes would take back the financial relief any families are finally feeling as prices at the pump have eased.
We have a better idea. As we’ve previously explained, states should take the lead in enacting detailed contingency plans to provide for their own transportation needs without sending billions of dollars to Washington to be run through a huge bureaucracy before being sent back with all kinds of strings attached. Then they should instruct their members of Congress to simply allow the bulk of the federal gas tax to expire, leaving states to run their own transportation systems.
The Renacci-Pascrell bill to steeply raise federal gas taxes is a huge step in the wrong direction, but it has the backing of a huge coalition led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO.
It must be taken seriously and it must be defeated.
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