The AP reported today that Congress is sharpening its favorite back-stabbing knife.
The political vision of a summer gas tax holiday died a quick death in Congress, losing to a view that federal excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel will have to go up if they go anywhere.
Despite calls from the presidential campaign trail for a Memorial Day-to-Labor Day tax freeze, lawmakers quickly concluded — with a prod from the construction industry — that having $9 billion less to spend on highways could create a pre-election specter of thousands of lost jobs.
Now, lawmakers quietly are talking about raising fuel taxes by a dime from the current 18.4 cents a gallon on gasoline and 24.3 cents on diesel fuel.
The fuel taxes go into the Highway Trust Fund, which is used for road construction and repair and mass transit.
Just three years ago, that trust fund enjoyed a surplus of $10 billion. Even without a tax freeze, the fund is projected to finish 2009 with a deficit of $3 billion. That that could grow as Americans drive less and buy less gas because of higher pump prices.
We can't win. Environmentalists and their Democrat puppets want policies and gas prices that will make us drive less. Well, they got what they wanted, but they didn't want the unintended consequences. Unfortunately for us in the car-driving public, Democrats in Congress believe our money is theirs, and they'll do whatever they can think of to make us fork over as much of our cash as they can.
Senate Democrats in May tried to add $5 billion to an aviation overhaul bill to replenish the highway trust fund next year; Republicans objected. Democrats tried again in June, but this time for $8 billion; Republicans objected to that, too.
Congress should first reduce spending on pet projects, known as earmarks, argued Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. "I'm not going to let the Senate spend all this money when nobody is looking, especially when we refuse to stop wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on earmarks."
Oberstar, D-Minn., said his committee is working on the next long-term highway bill. He estimated it will take between $450 billion and $500 billion over six years to address safety and congestion issues with highways, bridges and transit systems.
"We'll put all things on the table," Oberstar said, but the gas tax "is the cornerstone. Nothing else will work without the underpinning of the higher user fee gas tax."
To put it kindly, Oberstar is sadly lacking in imagination. He should listen Senator DeMint, who is now one of my favorite senators. The last thing we need is even higher gas prices.