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Welch Supports Upping Gas Tax To Stabilize Highway Trust Fund

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Angela Evancie
/
VPR/file
Unless Congress acts by the middle of May, the Federal Highway Trust Fund is going to run out of money. Rep. Peter Welch, shown here in October of 2014, supports a 12-cent increase to the federal gas tax that would shore up the fund.

Congressman Peter Welch says he'll support a 12-cent increase in the federal gasoline tax as a way to provide long-term stability for the nation's Highway Trust Fund, which will run out of money by the middle of May if Congress doesn't act.

Welch says he’ll oppose any short-term solutions to this issue. If the Highway Trust Fund runs dry, thousands of road and bridge projects across the country and dozens in Vermont will be severely cut back.

A bi-partisan group of U.S. senators is backing the plan to raise the federal gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over the next two years, and the tax would be adjusted for inflation every year after the initial period.

The federal gas tax is currently 18.9 cents a gallon and hasn't been changed in over 20 years. Federal spending on transportation projects was roughly $50 billion last year, but the gas tax raised only $34 billion dollars.

"Potholes don't fix themselves, and we've got roads that are deteriorating here in Vermont, bridges that are in desperate need of repair. Also, we've got a lot of folks who want to go to work without wrecking their car." - Rep. Peter Welch

Welch says he will support this plan as a reasonable way to invest in the country's transportation infrastructure.

"Potholes don't fix themselves, and we've got roads that are deteriorating here in Vermont, bridges that are in desperate need of repair,” Welch says. “Also we've got a lot of folks who want to go to work without wrecking their car."  

But Welch says it won't be easy to pass a gas tax increase in the Republican-controlled House.

"What I'm trying to do now is get Democrats do make it clear to Speaker Boehner that we will cooperate with you in providing votes for a long-term transportation plan. He's got a tough job, because on his side there's a lot of opposition to any revenue source even associated with transportation. So I want him to know that we will cooperate."  

Last year, Congress passed a short-term plan to provide enough money for the Highway Trust Fund that relied on complicated changes in corporate pension contributions. Welch says that's a terrible way to deal with this issue.

"What I won't cooperate with is another gimmick that just gets us three, four, five months down the road. I think that's just us dodging our responsibility."

President Obama has proposed taxing the foreign profits of U.S. corporations to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, but Welch says there's no way that House Republican leaders are going to support this approach.

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