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Democrat Cites Republican Precedent for Gas Tax Hike

An Oregon Democratic congressman plans to invoke the legacy of Republican icon Ronald Reagan - something  almost unheard of in Democratic political circles. Portland-area congressman Earl Blumenauer has waged a lonely - and so far unsuccessful - battle to raise federal gasoline taxes to avoid bankruptcy of the federal highway trust fund - a pool of money to pay for needed highway and bridge infrastructure repair and replacements.

Blumenauer has gotten some bi-partisan support now for his bill to hike the gasoline tax 15 cents a gallon over three years and to index it to inflation. He and Wisconsin Republican Tom Petri plan to cite support by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1982 to raise the tax - a call which Congress heeded.

The tax was raised again in 1993. But Congress has balked in the 21 years since then.

The 18.4 cents a gallon tax has been the primary source for federal transportation projects since the 1930s, but rising construction costs have drained the trust account. Federal road and bridge spending is now about $50 billion a year, but the gasoline tax brings in only about $34 billion.

Blumenauer wrote a bill a year ago to replenish the highway trust fund, but it disappeared into a black hole of committee referral and has not been heard of since then.

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