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December 30, 2014 5:00 PM, EST

Gas Tax 'Off the Table' as Highway Funding Option, Shuster Says

Also Rules Out Taxing Vehicle Miles Traveled
Office of Bill Shuster
House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has ruled out higher fuel taxes or taxing miles traveled to pay for transportation, an announcement that narrows the options for a new road funding bill in 2015.

“The president has ruled out a gas tax, I don’t think there’s a will in Congress and the American people don’t want it,” Shuster told the Associated Press on Dec. 29.

He also said that taxing vehicle miles traveled was “never really on the table” in part because Congress is leery about the government tracking motorists’ movements.

In 2013 when he took over as chairman of the committee that writes transportation funding bills, Shuster declared several times that “everything’s on the table” when it came to funding sources for the nation’s transportation system.

The following year, however, surrounded by strong anti-tax sentiment in the House, Shuster took higher fuel taxes “off the table” and would often say, “This is not my father’s Congress.”

His father, Bud Shuster, was chairman of the committee during the 1990s, a time when highway building was still booming and the Highway Trust Fund was solidly solvent.

Now that Shuster has also taken mileage taxes out of play, that potentially large source of long-term funding has been eliminated.

Several states, though, along with transportation experts, are increasingly exploring mileage taxes to pay for roads as revenue from state and federal fuel taxes declines because Americans are driving less and cars and trucks are more fuel efficient.

The pressure is on Congress, however, to come up with a reauthorization bill in 2015. The current funding law, the two-year MAP-21, expired in September. Congress temporarily extended the funding law to May 31 but not before the Highway Trust Fund came close to insolvency.

According to the AP report, Shuster also said that a long-term reauthorization bill may be paid for by repatriating the profits American corporations have kept offshore rather than pay taxes on them, an idea President Obama has also proposed in his plan to pay for transportation over four years with corporate tax reform.

The AP said Shuster also mentioned another revenue-producing idea Republicans floated in past years — paying for transportation by using revenue from oil exploration and production offshore and on federal lands.