Two senators unveiled a bipartisan plan Wednesday to raise federal gasoline and diesel taxes for the first time in more than two decades. The plan was pitched as a solution to Congress' struggle to pay for highway and transit programs.
The plan, offered by Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), would raise the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax and 24.4 cents per gallon diesel tax each by 12 cents over the next two years. The increase would be applied in two increments of 6 cents each.
The plan also calls for offsetting the tax increases with other tax cuts. Senators said that could be done by permanently extending six of 50 federal tax breaks that expired this year, but they indicated they would be open to other suggestions for offsets.
The last time federal gas and diesel taxes were increased was in 1993 as part of plan to reduce the federal budget deficit. Since then, lawmakers have been reluctant to raise fuel taxes despite calls from several blue-ribbon commissions to do so.
"For too long, Congress has shied away from taking serious action to update our country's aging infrastructure," Murphy said in a statement. "We're currently facing a transportation crisis that will only get worse if we don't take bold action to fund the Highway Trust Fund."
The six expired tax breaks identified by the senators as possible offsets for fuel tax increases are a research and development tax credit, certain expensing by small businesses, the state and local sales tax deduction, increasing employer-provided transit benefits to the same level as parking benefits, a deduction for spending by teachers on classroom supplies, and an increased deduction for land conservation and easement donations.