Is A Gas Tax Hike Coming?
Ray LaHood seems to think so. He tells the Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
The problem we have is, Congress wants to pass a very robust transportation bill in the neighborhood of $400 billion or $500 billion, and we know the highway trust fund is just deficient in its ability to fund those kinds of projects. The highway trust fund was substantial at one time but now with people driving less, and driving more fuel-efficient cars, it has become deficient. To index the federal fuel tax, that’s something Congress is going to have to decide. As we get into the reauthorization bill, the debate will be how we fund all the things we want to do. You can raise a lot of money with tolling. Another means of funding can be the infrastructural bank. You can sell bonds and set aside money for big projects, multibillion-dollar projects. Another way is (charging a fee to motorists for) vehicle miles traveled. The idea of indexing the taxes that are collected at the gas pump is something I believe Congress will debate. When the gas tax was raised in 1992 or 1993, in the Clinton administration, there was a big debate whether it should be indexed. At that time, they thought there’d be a sufficient amount of money collected. Now we know that isn’t the case. That is one way to keep up with the decline in driving, and more fuel-efficient cars.
LaHood stopped short of explicitly endorsing a gas tax hike, but he said it’s an issue that congress will have to take the lead on. And if it comes to a debate, let’s hope that indexing the gas tax for annual increases wins out. After all, LaHood has made it clear that he favors a pay-per-mile scheme which would require placing GPS tracking devices in all vehicles. Moreover, steady increases in the gas tax would accelerate consumer demand for fuel-efficient vehicles, actually helping automakers reduce their fleet average fuel economy numbers in a more organic fashion that CAFE mandates. The idea of indexing fuel taxes is said to be gaining support among transport policy analysts. In light of the threat posed by pay-per-mile, we’ll call that a good thing.
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