Union leader Terry O'Sullivan writes in the Hill on Wednesday that Congress should raise the federal gas tax to fund more infrastructure spending. As it happens, his union represents construction workers who would benefit from such federal spending.
O'Sullivan is president of the Laborers' International Union of North America. His statement came in an op-ed published by the Hill newspaper.
Lawmakers need to do this in part, he explained, because Americans are driving less and using more fuel-efficient cars and therefore paying less in taxes.
The union leader wrote:
Our nation's Highway Trust Fund, the key source for transportation investments, is on the brink of insolvency. Unlike most other financing mechanisms, Congress never adjusted it to inflation. As a result, revenue from the gas tax is no longer able to keep pace with the rising costs of construction materials, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Some of the revenue falloff also comes from the increased use of fuel-efficient cars, which use less gas, but unfortunately not fewer roads.
Congress should consider options such as indexing or increasing the 18.4 cents per gallon gas tax.
Had the gas tax been indexed to inflation in 1993, it would have raised $215 billion in "investment resources," i.e., taxpayer dollars. Nevertheless, this still would not have been enough to fully repair the nation's highways, he said.
LIUNA is optimistic that it can get those higher taxes and is working with a "broad array of allies including business associations, community groups and transit proponents" to promote the issue.
O'Sullivan argued that not spending more on infrastructure costs Americans through damage to their cars and higher fuel costs. It is even killing people. More spending "may very well have prevented bridge collapses and saved lives."