Is The Gas Tax Going Up?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
is the gas tax going up

The Department of Transportation’s budget has been released [ PDF here], and it includes (among other things):

a six-year, $556 billion surface reauthorization plan to modernize the country’s surface transportation infrastructure, create jobs, and pave the way for long-term economic growth. The President will work with the Congress to ensure that the plan will not increase the deficit.

But, the WaPo’s Ezra Klein points out

Traditionally, the underlying law — the Surface Transportation Assistance Act — was funded by increasing the gas tax. And when I say “traditionally,” I mean beginning with Ronald Reagan in 1982… if the administration is going to duck the fight on reconnecting the Surface Transportation Act and the gas tax, it’s hard to see this proposal getting funded and passed. The House GOP isn’t lockstep against infrastructure investment, but they do seem to be lockstep against new revenues. Plus: The gas tax was a sensible and smart way to fund improvements in transportation infrastructure. That’s why even Reagan signed onto it. It’s disappointing to see Bush’s irresponsible and ideological rejection of it become bipartisan policy.

Hear, hear. One of the reasons raising the gas tax is “sensible”: it makes the market more likely to play ball with President Obama’s goal to get a million plug-in electric cars on the road by 2015. Another: it makes CAFE wrangling far less fraught with drama. In fact, the only downside to raising the gas tax is that it’s unpopular. Oh well…

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  • Contrarian Contrarian on Feb 16, 2011

    I don't think we should want to impose a new tax that will forc e us into building dozens of new coal-fired power plants. Or maybe they could be ethanol-fired, furthering the severity of the impending global food crisis. All this pathological anti-oil manipulation is really messing the world up. But I guess that's their intent.

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    • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Feb 16, 2011

      We should be developing all of our energy resources. We should be drilling for oil, processing shale and tar sands, building modular and breeder reactors, and also fund research into fusion (e.g. Polywell) and alternative fuels as well.

      Our current policies on energy development are boneheaded and in many ways driven by the special interest politics of the Democratic party.

  • VanillaDude VanillaDude on Feb 16, 2011

    There is a real reason why Klein writes the word "seems" in this statement. It gives him a plausible exit when he is called out on it. What Klein wrote is intended to insult anyone questioning the intentions of those questioning the higher tax proposal. It is spin. It is biased crap from a crappy political hack. No one is opposed to new revenue. Not everyone agrees that it comes around by raising taxes since we have repeatedly seen increased revenues due to lowering taxes over the past thirty years. But if your education ended in 1974, and you have never questioned the now obsolete and discredited ideas behind raising taxes to increase revenues, you will end up as an old hack at the Washington Post, shoveling these old chestnuts as gems of wisdom and insulting anyone with an economic education sans 1974 - or anyone experienced in the real world. There can be no bipartisanship when old keynesian geezers like this one believes he has had nothing new to learn over the past thirty years and is more intent on insulting everyone else. Finally, let's get one last thing straight - the Federal Government does not own the roads. We paid for them, we built them, and what they did was organize the efforts to do so. That's it. The architect of your house does not have the right to tell you how to live in your house. Additionally, the architect of your house does not know better how to arrange the furniture in your house to fit your needs. There is a limit to how much citizens should empower governments in order to reach the highest level of efficiencies that fit each citizen's needs with the least amount of waste of citizen's wages.

    • MikeAR MikeAR on Feb 19, 2011

      Ezra Klein was a founder of Journolist, the approx. 400 person group of leftist writers who were caught coordinating their take on stories with each other and the Democratic Party. Anything he writes can and should be read as an outright lie. Original thinking and the truth are pretty much strangers to him.

  • Jackc10 Jackc10 on Feb 16, 2011

    To satisfy some and do my share to cut America's wasteful energy consumption, I guess I could grow my own lentils, harvest squirrels and collect rain water for my own needs, just stay put to keep my vehicles and boats idle to eliminate gas consumption and cancel CATV, giving up Fox News. Somehow I do not think that would satisfy some who frequently offer suggestions for the rest of us about how we should live. If the Euros and Canadians want to spend more for gasoline, fine by me. The Canadians that visit the great southland during the colder months enjoying tourist things and medical care, seem to be doing OK. I have never stopped by the table of any to offer guidance on taxes, diet and sun deprivation. What I do object to is a federal gasoline tax increase like the 5 cent a gallon increase during the Clinton years that our former Congressman voted for. The equivalent of one year's worth went immediately to fund Senator Byrd's "needs" in West VA. I also object to gas taxes going for multi million $ studies for high speed rail in my area. We have fairly decent roads and if some of the Canadians and others would go home, we might not have a congestion problem. If we had SW Air we could around better like the lucky Texans do. As a recreational bike rider, I am all for paved bike paths. We should pay for those with local revenues on sales and property taxes, not gas tax contributions from around the country.

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    • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Feb 16, 2011


      I'm not just a recreational cyclist, I use a bicycle for transportation a lot of the time. In fact, other than on Sundays or on group rides, I hardly ever ride recreationally. If I'm on my bike, chances are it's because I have someplace to get to. I don't have a problem with taxpayer supported sidewalks for pedestrians, or roads for cars and trucks, and I don't think it's inappropriate for some level of public financing for bike paths. I do think it's insane to reassign traffic lanes to bikes or buses, but then that's just a tactic in the War On Cars that strives to make driving more of a hassle.

  • Sundowner Sundowner on Feb 16, 2011

    Everyone needs to take a deep breath and relax a bit. After that, take a moment to consider the world we live in. The gas tax hasn't gone up since 1993. Roads don't fix themselves. your neighbors fix them by working for construction companies. People get raises every year, and for the most part, materials get more expensive every year. Shake off the political rhetoric for just a moment, I ask no more, and ask yourself if it's fair for you to do the same work today that you did in 1993 and get paid the same as you did back then. If I have a contract with you to buy asphalt and I demand of you the same pricing that yo gave me 1993, would you give it to me? probably not. IF you agree with the above, then you must understand that if the revenue stream doesn't go up, then the number of repair projects must go down, or road workers, your neighbors, must get pay cuts back to 1993 levels. Assuming that the political anger subsides, consider this: when Bill Clinton was in office, 18-ish cents of each 1 dollar-ish cent gallon of gas you bought went to pay for your roads and bridges. 20 years later, 18-ish cents of the 3 dollar-ish gas you buy goes to pay for the same. Argue against the government all you want, I endorse that. But really ask yourself if the above arrangement is really fair and equitable. Im interested in hearing justification to the contrary, because I can't think of one.

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    • Jedchev Jedchev on Feb 16, 2011

      I would argue that while it seems like gasoline is elastic, the demand was really going down temporarily during a price shock. When it hit $4.00, there was a decrease in demand due to concerns about the increase and uncertainty about the future price of gas. People viewed it as a crisis and acted accordingly, putting off driving and conserving fuel. Once the price had stabilized at $3.25-$3.50, the demand returned, as the public became used to the new price. The other problem I have is that the government is using a gas tax to subsidize these repairs. This hurts people of lower income the hardest and is a tax on investment in the economy, as most businesses use oil in some form to generate revenue. The businesses will have less money to invest and will most likely raise prices to compensate. Now, you are causing widespread inflation. A simple, flat tax on income would tax the money after it is made. By taxing commerce and investment, the government is confiscating money before it can grow and thereby hurting the process by which the entire pie gets bigger.