Transportation

Poll: 67 percent oppose gas tax hike

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Two-thirds of U.S. residents oppose an increase in the 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax that is used to pay for federal transportation projects, according to a new poll released this week. 

The gas tax has been used to pay for road and transit projects since the 1930s, but the levy has not been increased since 1993 and it has struggled mightily in recent years to keep up with rising construction costs as cars have become more fuel efficient. 

Transportation advocates have suggested increasing the gas tax for the first time in more than decades to make up the difference, but 67 percent of U.S. residents would oppose such a move, according to a survey that was conducted by SKDKnickerbocker and Benenson Strategy Group. 

{mosads}“Despite the fact that a majority of voters support more funding for road and bridge repair and believe it will help the economy, two thirds of voters oppose increasing the gas tax to sustain the fund for a longer time,” the groups said in the report, titled Beyond The Beltway: Insights Initiative.

The gas tax, which pre-dates the development of the Interstate Highway System by nearly two decades, has been the primary source for federal transportation projects since its creation in the 1930s.

Receipts from the gas tax have been outpaced by transportation expenses by about $16 billion annually in recent years as construction costs have risen and cars have become more fuel efficient.

The current level of federal spending on transportation is about $50 billion per year, but the gas tax only brings in about $34 billion annually at its current rate.

Transportation advocates have argued that increasing the gas tax for the first since 1993 would be the easiest way to close the gap. Lawmakers have been reluctant to ask drivers to pay more at the pump, however, making a gas tax increase politically toxic. 

Congress has instead turned to other areas of the federal budget in recent years to close the gap in lieu of asking drivers to pay more at the pump. However, critics say the temporary bandages are contributing to a weakened national infrastructure.

Congress had a chance to pass a multi-year transportation funding package earlier this year, but lawmakers could not agree on a way to pay for more than a couple of months’ worth of projects, resulting in a temporary extension that lasts only until May 2015.

The nearly $11 billion measure, which reauthorized the collection of the gas tax but did not increase it, was intended only to prevent a bankruptcy in the Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund.

The trust fund had been scheduled to run out of money in September without congressional action.

Transportation advocates had suggested that the recently completed lame-duck session would have been the best time for lawmakers to raise the gas tax because it would be more politically viable than it would be during the next Congress, but lawmakers showed little appetite for tackling the proposed hike before leaving Washington for the year earlier this week. 

Tags Gas Tax Highway bill MAP-21 Reauthorization

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