States moving on gas tax hikes on their own

States moving on gas tax hikes on their own
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Several states are considering increases of their own gas taxes, as Congress struggles to come up to boost federal transportation funding. 

Transportation advocates in Washington had hoped lawmakers would consider increasing the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax for the first time in two decades during the lame-duck session that began this week. 

Action seems unlikely since Congress passed a temporary extension of current transportation funding that lasts until May 2015, but states like Michigan and New Jersey are thinking about moving forward on their own now, according to reports. 

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Michigan’s state Senate is likely to vote Thursday on a plan that would increase gas taxes in the Great Lakes State from 19 cents to per gallon to 41 cents by 2018, The Associated Press reports

Meanwhile, the New Jersey General Assembly is holding hearings on a bill that would increase that state’s 14.5 cent-per-gallon tax by 25 cents, the Newark Star-Ledger reports

Infrastructure advocates have pushed lawmakers to increase the federal gas tax for the first time in 21 years, but lawmakers have been reluctant to ask drivers to pay more at the pump despite a $16 billion-per-year deficit that has developed in the nation’s transportation funding.

The gas tax, currently 18.4 cents per gallon, has been the traditional source of funding for the Highway Trust Fund, which is set to run out of money in May 2015. The gas tax only brings in approximately $34 billion per year, however, and current transportation funding is closer to $50 billion a year.

Lawmakers struggled to come up with a way to close the approximately $16 billion-per-year shortfall before the Highway Trust Fund went bankrupt when it was scheduled to run out of money in August. 

Lawmakers in both houses introduced legislation to raise the gas tax over the summer, but Congress opted instead for a temporary extension. 

Transportation advocates have pointed to states that already have increased their gas taxes in recent years to argue that a federal hike would be more politically viable than most observers believe.