Seattle Times: In August, the federal Highway Trust Fund runs out of money, and Congress is in a dither. As members consider proposals ranging from gas taxes to general cuts in federal spending, perhaps Americans ought to be grateful that gridlocked body is debating an issue of significance.
But Congress doesn’t need to rethink transportation in the next 30 days. Its job for now is to make sure the Highway Trust Fund doesn’t run dry.
States are counting on that money. Congress must quickly supplement the fund with $10 billion. Otherwise, it would trigger a slowdown in transportation spending nationally. That’s bad news for motorists, construction workers and the national economy.
Congress has been supplementing the fund since 2001 — the current federal gas tax, 18.4 cents a gallon, hasn’t kept up with the demand. What’s new is that Congress has developed a taste for brinkmanship. Suddenly a problem everyone has known about for years needs to be fixed right this minute.
But raising the federal gas tax by 12 cents is probably a bad idea for states that are struggling to raise their own gas taxes, and it’s an idea that won’t work over the long haul anyway as cars become more fuel-efficient.