Monday, September 29, 2003

Transportation Funding Hits Gridlock : Struggle for Resources Drives Lawmaker Impasse on Popular Initiative By Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post Staff Writer)
The National Highway Trust Fund, which is funded through an 18.4-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax, generated about $98 billion during the past three years. But the Transportation Department estimates that meeting the nation's transit needs during the next six years will cost $375 billion.
"We're going to have to figure out a way of financing it," said Rep. Thomas E. Petri (R-Wis.), who chairs the transportation subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines. "As a society, we're going to have to pay for it one way or another."
Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) and his Democratic counterpart, James L. Oberstar (Minn.), have proposed boosting the gasoline tax to pay for the new spending, adding 5.4 cents in the first year and boosting it to 8.4 cents by 2009.
But House GOP leaders reject the idea of levying higher taxes. "At a time when we are trying to drive an economic recovery, the idea of imposing a new gas tax is something that has trouble gaining popularity on the Hill," said Chief Deputy Whip Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.).
The White House also opposes that approach, saying lawmakers should satisfy themselves with spending $247 billion over six years. To do otherwise, one administration official said, is "a huge budget problem. Obviously, we don't want that."

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