Reason Foundation poll: Gas tax hike opposed by 85 percent

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Eighty-five percent of U.S. residents are opposed to increasing the federal gas tax to help pay for new transportation projects, according to a poll released on Friday by the libertarian Reason Foundation. 

Lawmakers spent most of the summer debating the idea of increasing the gas tax, currently at 18.4 cents per gallon, for the first time since 1993 as they scrambled to come up with a way to pay for a new round of transportation spending. 

The Department of Transportation had said that its Highway Trust Fund, which is normally filled by revenue from the gas tax, would have run out of money if Congress had not acted to replenish it last month. 

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Transportation advocates had argued that the gas tax should have been raised to help pay for an increase in federal infrastructure spending above the approximately $50 billion that is currently being spent on road and transit projects. 

The Reason poll found 46 percent of its respondents think the federal government needs to spend more money on transportation projects, while 30 percent think the current level is sufficient. 

Another 21 percent of the poll’s respondents said the federal government’s amount of transportation spending should be reduced. 

The gas tax has been the main source of transportation revenue since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s. The tax has not been increased in two decades, however, and it has struggled to keep pace with infrastructure expenses as cars have become more fuel efficient. 

The transportation funding stopgap that was approved by lawmakers last month maintained the spending level of approximately $50 billion per year for road and transit projects. But the gas tax only brings in about $34 billion per year at its current rate. 

Transportation advocates have suggested ideas such as increasing the use of tolls and switching to a system where drivers are taxed based on the number of miles they drive to move away from the struggling gas tax system. 

The Reason poll found 72 percent of U.S. residents are opposed to so-called “Vehicles Miles Traveled” fees, however. 

Fifty-eight percent of the poll’s respondents said they favored using toll revenue to close the transportation funding shortfall and 32 percent called for a gas tax increase.  

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