The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business organization, said July 15 its members would support an increase in the federal gasoline tax to fund needed infrastructure improvements.
Thomas J. Donohue, the Chamber's CEO, did not specify how much the increase should be. However, at a news conference, he didn't back away from a proposal made last year by an industry task force to increase the federal gas tax 5 to 8 cents per year for five years. The federal gas tax is currently at 18.4 cents per gallon; it has remained at that level since 1993.
Donahue told reporters that "we don't see this as a tax. We see it as a user fee."
The Chamber joins, among others, the American Trucking Associations in backing a hike in the federal gas tax to pay for infrastructure projects. Donahue headed the trucking group before moving to the Chamber.
Donahue spoke at a Chamber of Commerce event to marshal support for efforts to pass surface transportation reauthorization legislation by the time the current bill expires on Sept. 30. The Obama administration is pushing for an 18-month extension of the current legislation, saying it is too preoccupied with other issues to adequately focus on transportation reauthorization in the near future. The administration's move is opposed by a wide range of interests, including the Chamber and James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
However, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted July 15 to extend the existing program by 18 months.