By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA

U.S. House members June 10 voted 253 to 144, largely along party lines, to oppose President Obama’s proposed $10.25 per barrel of oil tax. The vote came just over two weeks after 130 House members (56 Republicans and 74 Democrats) sent a letter to the tax writing Ways & Means Committee calling for a permanent Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solution and urging “[e]very possible option should be on the table.”

The non-binding “sense of Congress” vote followed a brief debate where Republicans stated support for infrastructure investment while touting how adverse the proposal would be to oil companies. Democrats praised the Administration for putting a potential HTF revenue solution on the table for discussion.

The Administration plan would generate $319 billion over 10 years. The proposal would use these resource to preserve existing levels of highway investment and support a variety of new transportation initiatives aimed at reducing the effects of climate change. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have routinely ignored similar Administration spending proposals for the environment and instead dedicated revenue to the core highway and public transportation programs.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) read from a June 9 letter sent by the ARTBA co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition to all House members. It reminded them of the $143 billion in borrowed or General Fund revenue Congress has transferred into the HTF since 2008, and that the fund will face an average annual $18 billion shortfall beginning in 2020. The TCC letter concluded, “[r]ather than making rhetorical statements about taxes five months before an election, Congress should be working in a bipartisan manner to ensure that a permanent mechanism to preserve and grow federal highway and public transportation investment is in place well before the U.S. Department of Transportation starts warning states of the next highway program shutdown.”

There is currently no companion measure in the Senate.