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Truckers prefer fuel taxes over tolls

- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2011

Calls for higher fuel taxes are coming from an unexpected place: the trucking industry.

As an alternative to more tolls on major highways, the American Trucking Association supports an increase in federal fuel taxes, provided the money is put toward desperately needed infrastructure repair.

"We have yet to see a scenario where some form of financing other than fuel taxes actually works and works as efficiently and effectively," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in an interview with The Washington Times on Monday.

Mr. Graves, the former two-term Republican governor of Kansas, rejected tolls such as the ones recently proposed in Virginia and enacted in New York and New Jersey.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell a Republican, supports tolls on Interstate 95 as a way to generate revenue. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently approved major toll increases at the urging of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.

The ATA called those levies "ill-conceived and unprecedented," and said the average truck hauling goods from Baltimore to Manhattan will see its toll burden rise from $114 to more than $209 by 2014.

Tacking a few pennies onto the gas tax, Mr. Graves said, is a far better option because it doesn't require governments to hire workers to man toll booths or spend millions of dollars to build and maintain toll plazas.

While governor, he pushed two fuel tax increases through the Kansas Legislature and argued that tolls are less efficient financially and can add precious hours to a trucker's drive time.

But given the reluctance of federal and state lawmakers to raise any taxes during a recession, the ATA isn't holding out much hope that its suggestions will be implemented.

"At this moment, our advocacy [for a fuel tax increase] is falling on deaf ears," Mr. Graves said.

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