As lawmakers begin to find ways to increase revenue for an anticipated massive infrastructure package, trucking groups are working again to lower the fees for collecting fees per vehicle miles traveled.
“Hell no,” read the subject line of an email from a trucking group.
That group, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, sent a letter to the chairman and senior member of the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday warning that they would oppose any proposal to impose a truck-mileage tax. controversial and discriminatory. “
“Including such a policy of division in the next land transport re-authorization would immediately remove our support for the bill and likely destroy any hope of its passage,” wrote Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the organization, arguing that such a move would be “a terrible one Way to show your support and appreciation for truckers who kept the supply chain going during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Separately, Bill Sullivan, executive vice president of advocacy for the American Truckers Association, said that trucking provides half of federal fuel tax revenue to the Highway Trust Fund, even though only four percent of vehicles are on the road and nine percent of kilometers traveled be driven.
[Increasingly irrelevant gas tax awaits a better idea]
“Our industry has long declared that we are willing to pay our fair share to fund necessary improvements to our infrastructure and we support increasing usage fees,” said Sullivan. “However, as we made clear last year when this type of tax was introduced and abrogated, we are unwilling to impose discriminatory charges on trucks just to meet our country’s infrastructure needs and we will strongly oppose any effort. “
Trucking industry opposition also comes after the senior Republican on the finance panel admitted that “there are many Senators who, in my opinion, are seriously considering (the idea of a truck VMT).”
“I’m not for it,” said Senator Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, who added. “I rate everything, but that’s not one of my preferred options.”
Chief Financial Officer Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Said, “I won’t go into details, but the debate is ongoing.”
Legislature is exploring a variety of ways to increase revenue, in large part due to reluctance to increase federal gas tax, which has been paid through the Highway Trust Fund for freeways since 1956 and for transit since 1982. The tax has not increased since 1993 so it has not kept up with inflation. And as vehicles become increasingly economical, and automakers like General Motors say they will phase out gas-powered internal combustion engines entirely in the next 20 years, this threatens an irrelevant role.
In private, Republicans have expressed frustration at the fact that gasoline-powered cars pay the tax while electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles don’t. By finding an alternative that charges non-gasoline vehicles, they will make the system fairer and increase the tax burden on alternative fuel vehicles that are more likely to use the roads in the future.
Legislators such as Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., The senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have proposed moving to a national system of vehicle miles traveled. However, while pilot VMT programs are underway in several states, many lawmakers including Committee Chair Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., Said the idea is not yet ready for full national implementation. However, he and other Democrats have acknowledged that they are open to an eventual move to a VMT-based tax. However, this system would apply to all vehicles.
This isn’t the first time truckers have battled a truck-only proposal. The idea was circulated by staff from then Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo, but was rejected in March 2020 by Senator Charles E. Grassley, then Chairman of the Finance Committee. Grassley told E&E News, “We have come to the conclusion that we would never receive the truck mileage tax.”
Mike Matousek, government affairs manager for the drivers’ association, said, although the idea was shot down last year, “Nothing goes away.”
He said trucks already pay a heavy vehicle excise tax of about $ 550 a year, a federal diesel tax of 24.3 cents per gallon, and a federal excise tax of 12 percent on purchases of new trucks and trailers. Gasoline is taxed at 18.3 cents per gallon.
That doesn’t count the variety of state and local taxes they pay.
Trucks are one of the few modes of transport that did not receive government support during the pandemic. The industry “couldn’t even get a few hundred million on truck parking, which has been a problem for decades,” he said.
He said the bigger problem is Congress’s utter reluctance to address a trust fund that has been deficient for 15 years. By singling out Truckers, he said, “You are asking us to clean up the mess that Congress has created.”
“We are not responsible for deficit spending,” he said. “And we shouldn’t be fucking asked to pay for everything.”
(Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.)
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