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An Open Letter to the President and Congress: Taxpayers Oppose Hike in the Federal Gas Tax
August 21, 2007
Dear President Bush and Members of Congress:
On behalf of the millions of taxpayers represented by our respective organizations, we write in opposition to proposals that would increase the existing 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal excise tax on gasoline.
One legislative plan promoted by Representative James Oberstar would temporarily increase the federal gas tax by 5 cents per gallon to fund bridge repair around the country. We are extremely concerned that this "temporary" tax increase would turn into a permanent one. After all, President George H.W. Bush's "temporary" gas tax increase of 5 cents per gallon in 1990 never went away as promised, while lawmakers "repurposed President Clinton's 4.3 cent-per-gallon hike when the budget seemed headed toward a surplus.
Proponents of a federal gas tax increase insist that few would even notice the change in their fuel bills. In reality, a 5 cent-per-gallon jump would represent a steep 27 percent tax hike over the current rate and cost American motorists an estimated $25 billion over the next three years. Combined with state gas taxes, many motorists would pay over $7.50 in taxes for the average fill-up. This is a substantial burden on families trying to make ends meet and only makes gas prices harder to stomach. Given high energy costs, now is the time to give taxpayers a lighter - not a heavier - gas tax burden.
We also reject the notion that there isn't enough money available for infrastructure upkeep. Both the federal and state governments have made record levels of transportation money available. The 2005 Highway Bill increased related funding by 42 percent, to a record $286.5 billion. It also contained 6,500 earmarks totaling 9 percent of the bill's cost. The Fiscal Year 2008 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill contained 1,434 earmarks worth over $2.2 billion. This is money that could have been directed to real need-based priorities determined by transportation experts. Instead, it was handed out to politically connected allies. Congress's bad habit of earmarking has siphoned money away from core repair functions and into questionable projects. This reckless binge should be ended before lawmakers even consider raising gas taxes by a single penny.
Instead of resorting so readily to tax hikes, Congress and the Executive Branch should conduct a review to determine which transportation projects are really worth funding and which are unnecessary. Elected officials should not be feeding more revenues into the gears of an ever-faster spending machine, and we urge you to oppose any federal gas tax hike.