Vast majority opposes gas tax hike, poll shows

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Nearly 70 percent of U.S. residents are opposed to the idea of raising the federal gas tax to pay for new transportation projects, according to a poll released Friday by a group that is working to stop such an increase. 

Transportation advocates have been pushing for an increase in the gas tax, which has been 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, as prices at the pump have fallen to their lowest levels in years in recent weeks. 

The Arlington, Va.-based Freedom Partners group said Friday that its poll showed 68 percent of U.S. residents are opposed to the idea of paying more at the pump, even if the money would be used to provide additional funding for infrastructure projects. 

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The poll found 21 percent of its respondents agreed with the statement “because the cost of gasoline is falling, now is the right time to increase the federal gasoline tax. Our roads, bridges, and highways are in disrepair and this extra money would help increase the amount of money available for transportation construction.” 

In contrast, 68 percent said they agree with the statement “even though the cost of gasoline is falling, lawmakers should not increase the federal gasoline tax. Washington has poorly managed our money, and it’s time to get back to states and local communities being accountable for — but also empowered to control — the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, and highways.” 

Transportation advocates have argued that nearly doubling the gas tax now would bring it to the level it would have reached naturally if it had been indexed to inflation since the last increase in 1993. 

The Freedom Partners poll found that most voters were not persuaded by the inflation argument, however. 

According to the poll, 14 percent of its respondents said they agreed with the statement “because the cost of gasoline is falling, now is the right time to increase the federal gasoline tax. The federal gasoline tax has been unchanged since 1993 and it needs to be increased because it has not kept up with inflation.”

Meanwhile, 79 percent agreed with the statement “falling gas prices have given people more money to spend – an average of $100 a month per family. At a time when wage growth has been stagnant for several years, increasing the federal gasoline tax would reverse the financial relief many are starting to feel.” 

The current transportation funding bill, which included about $11 billion for infrastructure projects, is scheduled to expire on May 31. 

The White House and several lawmakers have suggested using revenue from taxing corporate profits that are kept overseas to pay for a new transportation bill as an alternative to increasing the gas tax. Budget groups have criticized the proposal, which is known as repatriation, as a gimmick that will cost more in the long run than it generates now for road projects.