On January 3, 2021, Jim Burnley was quoted in Law360 on transportation legislation and regulation to watch in 2021, including figuring out how to replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for surface transportation projects nationwide but does not bring in enough money from the federal gas tax to cover all of the projects that need funding.
According to the article, the fund takes in about $38 billion a year from the tax, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but that falls short of annual demand. As a result, the Highway Trust Fund has often been propped up by cash infusions from the federal general fund and other sources, largely because Congress has declined to raise the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax since 1993.
Over the years, there's been plenty of talk of either raising the gas tax or finding sustainable funding alternatives, such as a vehicles-miles traveled program. "But the incoming administration could not be clearer about its desire to move automobiles and trucks away from petroleum-based fuels to electric vehicles, so you have a double whammy," said Burnley.
"If you're going to raise fuel taxes, you've either got to raise them by a lot more than may be politically tolerable, or you will very soon — to the extent we move away from gasoline, diesel-powered vehicles — simply have another rapidly growing deficit in revenues vs. expenditures under the trust fund," he added.
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