WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two senators unveiled a bipartisan plan Wednesday to raise federal gasoline and diesel taxes for the first time in more than two decades, pitching the proposal as a solution to Congress' struggle to pay for highway and transit programs.<br />
The plan offered by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would raise the 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal gas tax and 24.4-cents-a- gallon diesel tax by 12 cents each over the next two years, and then index the taxes to keep pace with inflation.<br />
The plan also calls for offsetting the tax increases with other tax cuts. It suggests that could be done by permanently extending about 50 federal tax breaks that expired this year, but the senators indicated they would be open to other suggestions for offsets.<br />
The federal Highway Trust Fund that pays for highway and transit aid is forecast to go broke by late August. Revenue from gas taxes and other transportation user fees that go into the fund haven't kept pace with federal aid promised to states. People are driving less per capita and cars are more fuel efficient, keeping revenues fairly flat. But nation's infrastructure is aging, creating greater demand for new and rebuilt roads and bridges. At the same time, the cost of construction has increased.
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
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