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Archive for Friday, January 2, 2009

Panel urges higher U.S. fuel taxes

Money raised would help fund highways

January 2, 2009

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— A 50 percent increase in gasoline and diesel fuel taxes is being urged by a federal commission to finance highway construction and repair until the government devises another way for motorists to pay for using public roads.

The National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing, a 15-member panel created by Congress, is the second group in a year to call for higher fuel taxes.

With motorists driving less and buying less fuel, the 18.4 cents a gallon gas tax and 24.4 cents a gallon diesel tax fail to raise enough to keep pace with the cost of road, bridge and transit programs.

In a report expected in late January, members of the infrastructure financing commission say they will urge Congress to raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon and the diesel fuel tax by 12 to 15 cents a gallon. The commission will also recommend tying the fuel tax rates to inflation, and that states should raise their fuel taxes and make greater use of toll roads and fees for rush-hour driving.

A tax increase on this order would be politically treacherous for Democratic leaders in Congress — a gas tax hike was one of the reasons they lost control of the House and Senate in the 1994 elections. President-elect Barack Obama has expressed concern about raising gas taxes. But commission members said the government must find the money somewhere.

“I’m not excited about a gas tax increase, but the reality is our current gas tax doesn’t pay for upkeep of the system we have now,” said Adrian Moore, vice president of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Los Angeles, and a member of the highway revenue commission.

The dilemma for Congress is that highway and transit programs are dependent for revenue on fuel taxes that are not sustainable. Many Americans are driving less and switching to more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, and a shift to new fuels and technologies like plug-in hybrid electric cars will further erode gasoline sales.

According to a draft of the financing commission’s recommendations, the nation needs to move to a new system that taxes motorists according to how much they use roads.

A study by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies estimated that the annual gap between revenues and the investment needed to improve highway and transit systems was about $105 billion in 2007, and will increase to $134 billion in 2017 under current trends.

Projected shortfalls in revenue led the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, in a report issued in January 2008, to call for an increase of as much as 40 cents a gallon in the gas tax, phased in over five years.

Charles Whittington, chairman of the American Trucking Associations, which supports a fuel tax increase as long as the money goes to highway projects, said Congress may decide to disguise a fuel tax hike as a surcharge to combat climate change.

Transportation is responsible for about a third of all U.S. carbon emissions created by burning fossil fuels. Traffic congestion wastes an estimated 2.9 billion gallons of fuel a year. Less congestion would reduce greenhouse gases and dependence on foreign oil.

“Instead of calling it a gas tax,” Whittington said, “call it a carbon tax.”

Comments

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 11 months ago

A 10 cent per gallon increase will seem like a pleasant dream compared to the prohibitively expensive "carbon taxes" that many on the Far Left have planned. Get ready for radical environmentalism to once again invade your family's budget.

Satirical 5 years, 11 months ago

I blame the fuel efficient vehicles. They cause the same amount of wear and tear on the roads as the gas guzzling versions, but the owners pay less in gas taxes. Perhaps there should be a government surcharge when purchasing one of these vehicles. Who am I kidding, with Obama as POTUS there will likely be a huge government credit thus exacerbating this budget shortfall.

Kirk Larson 5 years, 11 months ago

What do you mean forget the Birkenstocks? Birks are great for walking (saves gas, improves health) and they can be resoled which makes them more cost effective in the long run. I have resoled mine 4 or 5 times.That's the message that needs to get through about so-called "radical" environmentalism: it's better for you and it saves money in the long haul.

oldvet 5 years, 11 months ago

I'm going to tax the rich, not the middle class... sure!!!

Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 months ago

The Feds and state governments already make more money from gasoline than the oil companies do.

somedude20 5 years, 11 months ago

Maybe the Fed Govt. should just create a law requiring all wages to increase by 10% so that more tax revenue can be generated. This, in theory, would also increase consumer spending and create even more tax monies that could be used to help those poor humanitarians in the banking and auto industries.

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 11 months ago

somedude20,How about a law requiring that wages increase by 100%? Or how about 1,000%? Or maybe the government should just make everyone a millionaire! This, in theory, would completely bankrupt the nation.

somedude20 5 years, 11 months ago

Setting,guess the concept of sarcasm passed you by friend. Better luck in the new year!!

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