The federal trust fund that pays for highway construction projects is about a year away from running out of cash. One top democratic Senator says her plan to replenish it relies on getting rid of the gasoline tax. Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Michael Scotto has the story.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Roads across the country could start looking a lot worse if the federal government doesn't fix the Highway Trust Fund by the end of next year.
"We are facing an epic crisis with the insolvency of the highway trust fund and a transportation fiscal cliff is quickly approaching," said Gregory Cohen, American Highway Users Alliance.
Currently, the gasoline tax pays for transportation projects, but it's no longer doing the trick. Fuel efficient cars and fewer hours behind the wheel are to blame, along with the fact that the18.4 cents per gallon tax hasn't been raised in two decades.
The leading Democrat on the panel responsible for the fund wants to scrap the tax altogether and rely, instead, on a fee collected at oil refineries.
"We can unite behind something that takes us away from the per gallon tax and moves us toward a sales fee for the highways," said California Senator Barbara Boxer.
Lawmakers from both parties say something needs to be done, yet they have been fighting over the gasoline tax for years and have yet to come to an agreement on a solution. As a result, Congress has had to inject the trust fund with cash from the government's general bank account, a move many lawmakers say is foolish.
"We have to borrow to replenish the general fund to in turn provide for transportation improvements. I don't think it's a very smart way to do business," said Delaware Senator Thomas Carper.
It also hasn't provided enough to repair the country's infrastructure, which is in desperate need of an upgrade.