U.S. Senator Slams ATA’s Proposal to “Make Drivers Pay More at the Pump”
Washington D.C. – United States Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) is blasting the American Trucking Associations (ATA) proposal, known as the Build America Fund (BAF), to increase federal fuel taxes.
In an opinion editorial published last weekend in the Casper Star-Tribune, Senator Barrasso, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, accused ATA of teaming up with Democrats in the House of Representatives to “make drivers in Wyoming pay more at the pump.”
While acknowledging the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is set to run out of monies in FY2021, Senator Barrasso is taking particular exception with the manner in which ATA is advocating paying for badly needed infrastructure improvements.
“The [ATA] and Democrats in the House think those funds should come from the pockets of Wyoming drivers. They’re advocating to more than double the federal gas taxes to get the infrastructure investments they want,” he said.
Senator Barrasso was unequivocal in his opposition to such a proposal.
“While vocally opposing a modest vehicle miles traveled fee on the very largest trucks, the ATA has championed a hike in the federal gas taxes on individual drivers to cover the bulk of the cost of road maintenance,” he wrote. “I won’t let that happen.”
About ATA’s BAF Tax
Last year the ATA released the details of its proposed BAF.
The BAF would impose a new 20 cent per gallon fee built into the price of transportation fuels collected at the terminal rack, to be phased in over four years.
The fee would be indexed to both inflation and improvements in fuel efficiency, with a five percent annual cap.
ATA economists estimate that the BAF tax will generate nearly $340 billion over the first 10 years.
Further, ATA says the increased fuel tax will cost the average passenger vehicle driver just over $100 per year once fully phased in.
The BAF also calls for a new fee on hybrid and electric vehicles, which ATA says is necessary since these motorists “underpay for their use of the highway system or do not contribute at all.”
What Plan Does Senator Barrasso Support?
Instead of supporting the BAF, Senator Barrasso is pushing for bipartisan legislation he introduced last year called America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA).
ATIA would reauthorize the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), passed in 2012, as well as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, passed in 2016.
ATIA would also authorize nearly $287 billion from the HTF for investments to maintain and repair America’s roads and bridges.
“ATIA builds upon the FAST Act and delivers a strong, stable Federal partnership through a 27 percent increase in funding over five years, relative to the previous five year period,” the bill states.
ATIA also calls for a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee on hybrid and electric vehicles which Senator Barrasso says is “comparable to the current gas tax.”
In written testimony submitted to the Senate Transportation and Safety Subcommittee during a hearing last month, ATA President Chris Spear argued raising fuel taxes is the “most immediate, cost-efficient and conservative mechanism” currently available for funding surface transportation projects and programs.”
He also pointed out that collection costs are less than one percent of revenue.
“Our proposal will not add to the federal debt or force states to resort to detrimental financing options that could jeopardize their bond ratings. Unlike other approaches that simply pass the buck to state and local governments by giving them additional ‘tools’ to debt-finance their infrastructure funding shortfalls for the few projects that qualify, the BAF will generate real money that can be utilized for any federal-aid project,” Spear testified.
Still, Senator Barrasso isn’t buying it and urged ATA to “listen to Wyoming drivers and drop their plan to massively increase the federal gas tax.”
It also doesn’t appear as if ATA’s BAF tax is likely to win much support in the Senate either.
What Are The Chances ATA’s BAF Tax Becomes Law?
In a recent appearance on Fox News, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated ATA’s proposal to increase federal fuel taxes was dead on arrival, but expressed optimism a smaller funding bill would pass this year.
“We’re probably going to be able to reach an agreement on an infrastructure bill,” he said. “It may not be a big bill because that would require dealing with the revenue sources that both sides are nervous about raising the gas tax, which is a regressive tax on low income people.”