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December 2, 2014 11:00 AM, EST

Rep. Petri Supports Bill That Would Raise Fuel Taxes

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

Tom Petri (R-Wis.), the outgoing chairman of the subcommittee on highways, said he will become a co-sponsor of a bill that would increase federal fuel taxes to support the nation’s transportation system.

The measure would gradually raise the 18.4-cent gasoline tax to 33.3 cents a gallon starting in 2016 and the 24.4-cent diesel tax to 39.3 cents. The levies would be kept in place until 2025.

Under the bill, by 2024, Congress is to find a replacement for fuel taxes, the revenue from which has been shrinking as vehicles become more fuel-efficient and Americans drive less.

Petri will join the bill’s main sponsor, Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), at a press conference Dec. 3, one year to the day after Blumenauer introduced the legislation.

Petri has long advocated increased spending for infrastructure, saying that higher fuel taxes may be needed until Congress can find other revenue-raising methods such as a tax on vehicle miles traveled.

Petri, though, is retiring, meaning his support for the Blumenauer measure will only officially last as long as the current lame-duck session of Congress.

House leaders have not indicated that they plan to address transportation funding issues during lame-duck session, and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has said there is no support for raising fuel taxes.

Federal levies on diesel and gasoline have not been raised in more than 20 years. Petri and Blumenauer said they plan to drive home the point that Republicans, namely President Ronald Reagan, have been willing to do so when necessary. Reagan signed a bill in 1983 that raised the gas tax a nickel.