AAA poll: Majority willing to pay higher gas taxes

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A majority of U.S. drivers are willing to pay more in gas taxes to help pay for infrastructure improvements, according to a poll released Tuesday by the AAA auto club. 

AAA and other transportation groups have pushed lawmakers to considering increasing the federal gas tax, which is traditionally the main source of funding for infrastructure projects. 

The gas tax, which is currently priced at 18.4 cents-per-gallon, has not been increased since 1993. 

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The AAA poll found 52 percent of its respondents said they would be “willing to pay more” for road construction than they do now. 

Sixty-eight percent of the poll’s respondents said the federal government should invest more in transportation projects and 67 percent said the gas tax was an “appropriate way to raise funds” for it. 

The finding comes as lawmakers are struggling to close a shortfall in transportation projects that is projected to reach $16 billion soon. 

The current transportation bill, which is scheduled to expire in September, includes approximately $50 billion in road and transit spending. The gas tax only brings in about $34 billion per year. 

Lawmakers have closed the gap in recent years with money from other areas of the federal government, and they are floating ideas to do so again now. 

A recent proposal from House Republican leaders involves using approximately $15 billion that they say can be saved from reducing service at the U.S. Postal Service to pay for at least one year of transportation projects. 

Democrats in the Senate have balked at the House proposal, arguing instead for a longer six-year, $265 billion transportation bill they say would maintain current levels of infrastructure spending. The upper chamber has not yet identified a funding source for its transportation bill, however. 

AAA President Bob Darbelnet said the findings of his group’s polling show Congress should consider raising the gas tax for the first time in 20 years to pay for the infrastructure measure. 

“Americans are fed up with record-long commutes, unsafe highways and never-ending potholes caused by political inaction,” Darbelnet said in a statement. “Congress must prevent severe maintenance delays during the height of the summer driving season by preventing a Highway Trust Fund bankruptcy in August.”

Darbelnet called for lawmakers to support a measure from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) by 12 cents over the next two years to raise it to about the level it would be now if it was indexed to inflation in 1993. 

“Many of us are willing to pay a little more if it means we will have access to better roads, bridges and transit systems,” Darbelnet said. “It is time for our nation’s leaders to stand with Senator Murphy and others that support improving our country’s transportation system.”