California advances 12-cent gas tax hike proposal

California advances 12-cent gas tax hike proposal
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California advanced a plan this week to increase the amount of money drivers in their state will have to pay at the pump to help pay for transportation projects as federal road funding dries up, The San Jose Mercury News reports

A California state Senate committee voted on Wednesday to approve legislation that would increase the state’s approximately 42 cents-per-gallon gas tax by 12 cents, according to the report. 

The new California fuel levy, which would be the state's first increase since 1994, will be collected on top of an 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax that is charged to all drivers in the nation to fill the federal government’s transportation funding coffers. 

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The American Petroleum Institute says the gas tax increase will bring the total amount of money that drivers in California are charged at the pump to more than 72 cents per gallon. 

The state is the latest to consider increasing its gas tax in recent years as federal transportation funding has dried up. 

Lawmakers in Congress are currently facing an Oct. 29 deadline for the expiration of federal transportation funding, and they are struggling to come up with a way to pay for a long-term extension of the measure after passing a patch in July that lasts only three months. 

Transportation advocates in Washington have pointed to the willingness of states such as California to raise their own gas tax as evidence that a national hike would be politically palatable this year.

Conservative groups in Washington have made clear that they would consider an increase in the federal fuel levy a tax hike, however.

The national gas tax has been the traditional source of transportation funding since its inception in the 1930s. The tax has not been increased since 1993, however, and improvements in auto fuel efficiency have sapped its purchasing power. 

The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on transportation projects, but the gas tax only brings in approximately $34 billion annually at its current rate. 

Lawmakers have turned to other areas of the federal budget in recent years to close the $16 billion per year gap, but transportation advocates have said the resulting temporary funding measures are preventing states from completing large construction projects.