- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 19, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Read our lips. New taxes are on the way. Democratic lawmakers are sending clear messages that they plan to increase taxes to try to cover some of their massive spending increases. They have signaled to big business that they want corporate cover to raise revenue to pay for a major expansion in transportation spending.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland told transportation lobbyists in a private meeting late last month that congressional leaders will need corporate America’s backing for tax increases, according to Congress Daily. Democrats especially would need extra political backing to increase the 18.4 cents-a-gallon gasoline tax for the first time since 1993.

Existing federal transportation funding expires Sept. 30. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar of Minnesota has introduced a massive $500 billion spending plan that dwarfs the $286.4 billion in funding in the previous law. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the proposal will require about $140 billion in new revenue to fund the six-year plan.

The administration wants to postpone the transportation reauthorization for 18 months and pass a $20 billion fix to keep the Highway Trust Fund flush with money until March 2011. This plan is moving forward in the Senate. This would delay the issue until after the 2010 midterm elections. But fiscal conservatives should not get too excited. This funding is on top of $26.6 billion in the stimulus package that was set-aside for transportation projects.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue signaled earlier this year that the powerful business group could back so-called user fees “to provide the revenue our transportation infrastructure badly needs” if the transportation bill included significant reforms. This week, the chamber blanketed Capitol Hill with its members to push for Mr. Oberstar’s spending bill. Democrats clearly plan to take advantage of the chamber’s inclination to help, although not necessarily for reform.

Given the already sorry state of the economy, corporate America should not help the Democrats raise taxes and set back the economy even more.


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