Rep. Earl Blumennauer (D-Ore.) stood beside a towering two-dimensional Reagan as he pressed for an increase in the federal gasoline tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1993. He reminded the C-SPAN cameras that a once-opposed Reagan eventually agreed to raise the tax when he was president because “one of our greatest material blessings is the outstanding network of roads and highways that spreads across this great continent.”
There is universal agreement from business and labor groups that increasing the 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax is crucial to keeping up just basic maintenance of the nation’s aging infrastructure, not to mention the need for improvements and advancements. But the political will isn’t there because advocating for new taxes, even ones dedicated to something specific such as roads and bridges, is politically toxic. The Obama administration, which has hailed the need for infrastructure investments, has flatly rejected all calls to increase the tax.
But without an increase or a new funding mechanism, the country won’t have enough money to pay for basic needs, transportation advocates have warned for years to no avail.
Since introducing his bill to raise the tax exactly one year ago, Blumennauer has just one congressional co-sponsor, Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), who is retiring.
“All it takes is a little leadership and courage, like Ronald Reagan and (House Speaker) Tip O’Neill did 32 years ago,” Blumenauer said on the floor with Reagan looking on.
In other words, unlike what the current president and speaker have shown on the issue.