WASHINGTON — American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves again told lawmakers that raising federal fuel taxes is the best approach for paying for infrastructure projects, a position congressional leaders charged with uncovering more funding reject. At a high-profile House Ways and Means Committee hearing June 17, Graves told the panel that infrastructure needs are constantly mounting and revenue from a fuel tax was among the most efficient ways to back fixes. “Roads and bridges aren’t free, and they’re certainly not cheap, yet Congress has been operating under the assumption that pennies might fall from heaven,” said Graves, a former two-term Republican governor of Kansas. At the hearing, Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he did not support a fuel-tax increase, adding that a transfer this summer from the general Treasury fund to the Highway Trust Fund — essentially a short-term extension — seems unavoidable. “It’s going to be difficult to reach consensus on a permanent solution,” Ryan said. “We are not going to raise the gas tax.” According to the Congressional Budget Office, the trust fund is projected to run dangerously low in a couple of months. Since 2008, Congress has approved the transfer of about $62 billion from the general fund to ensure the trust fund’s solvency. Graves said ATA supports two bills introduced this year by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Jim Renacci (R-Ohio). Blumenauer’s measure would add 15 cents phased in over three years to the existing 18.4-cent gasoline tax and the 24.4-cent diesel tax. Those federal taxes have not been raised in two decades. Renacci’s bill would establish a bipartisan, bicameral transportation commission charged with identifying a way to come up with a sustainable funding source for the trust fund.
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