Venable partner Jim Burnley discussed the ongoing funding issues of the Highway Trust Fund in a PBS NewsHour article on October 27, 2015. The Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by the federal gas tax, has been struggling with a lack of revenue in recent years partially because the gas tax has not been raised in over twenty years to keep up with inflation. The fund is also in danger of losing funding unless Congress can come up with a long-term solution. It is currently funded through spring 2016 by a short-term stopgap bill passed back in July.
Discussing when the Highway Trust Fund started to run low on funds, Burnley said, "Beginning about the time of the [Great] Recession, we no longer collect sufficient taxes." One proposal for additional funding involves selling oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which Burnley says would only raise about half of the needed revenue. On the possibility of raising the federal gas tax, Burnley said, "There is literally nobody who wants to do this."
Another option, being explored by several states, is taxing people based on the number of miles traveled instead of by the gallon of gas purchased. Thought to be one of the more equitable and efficient solutions, Burnley called it probably the "most reliable solution." He also suggested the use of more public-private partnerships such as high occupancy vehicle express lanes.
Commenting on the current situation, Burnley added, "I don't think the crisis today is quite appropriate. But I think we are rapidly approaching a set of crises [if we don't pass something]."