With the US Congress facing a major shortfall in transportation funding next year, Congress is eying a boost in the federal gas tax to make up the difference.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer announced a proposal, also called The Update, Promote, and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act, that would phase in a 15 cent/gallon tax increase over the next three years on gasoline and diesel. With the proposal, the federal tax would increase to 33.4 cents per gallon on gas and to 42.8 cents per gallon on diesel.
The current federal gas tax stands at 18.4 cents per gallon and has not been increased in nearly 20 years. Blumenauer says that means that taking into consideration inflation and increased fuel efficiency for vehicles, “the average motorist is paying about half as much per mile as they did in 1993.” That, Blumenauer believes, needs to change.
“Instituting a reasonable gas tax increase now provides the revenues Democrats say they want with a form of a user fee which historically has been acceptable to Republicans including Ronald Reagan, who increased the gas tax by a nickel a gallon in 1982,” he said.
A few years ago, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) announced that over $70.9 billion worth of repairs were needed to maintain safe infrastructure; that followed shortly on the heels of the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in 2007. That collapse, which killed 13 people and injured 145, spurred a dialogue about the condition of roads and bridges in the country. The general consensus? It’s not terrific.
The American Society of Civil Engineers 2013 Report Card gave Roads in America a D and issued Bridges a C+. The report noted that 42% of America’s major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually. The report also stressed that one in nine of the US bridges are rated as structurally deficient, while the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years. The ASCE calls for $3.6 trillion in additional investments for all infrastructure with nearly $200 billion earmarked for roads and bridges per year.
It could be a tough sale but Blumenauer hopes that emphasizing that those who benefit most from the tax are those that will bear the burden of the increase might win some support in Congress. He can, however, expect those taxpayers to yell the loudest. With the average driver in the U.S. tackling 13,476 miles each year, the increase would cost drivers more than $80 in additional gas taxes per year (assuming a 24.6 mpg average). That would be nearly double the current rates: at those averages, taxpayers now pay just over $100 in federal gas taxes. Males ages 35-54 will be hit the hardest since statistically, they put more miles on the road (about 40% more than the average).