A few more words about the gasoline tax…
January 24, 2011
What I am about to tell you is not new but at the same time it bears repeating: the federal gasoline tax has not increased from its current levels of 23.4 cents for diesel and 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline since 1994.
As LM has reported myriad times in the past, by most accounts, the common refrain for not raising the tax in nearly 17 years appears to be “a lack of political will.”
I got thinking about this, because I asked Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at the SMC3 Winter Conference last week if there is even a remote chance, there will be a fuel increase of any kind coming down the road anytime soon.
In short, LaHood told me chances are slim.
“The President has indicated on any number of occasions that he is opposed to raising the gas tax in a very, very lousy economy, with unemployment still over 9 percent,” said LaHood. “Many people are hurting, and some cannot even afford to buy a gallon of gas, let alone have the gas tax raised. We are not recommending that, and we are not suggesting that. That is not something the President is for, so we will not be making any proposals to raise the gas tax.”
Ok, fair enough, I suppose. But that does not mean that not raising the gas tax is not the right decision, considering the patchwork quilt that transportation funding currently is in our country. We have seen several extensions, or continuing resolutions, of SAFETEA-LU to keep funding at current levels since is expiration in September 2009, and there is also growing momentum towards usage of hybrid-electric vehicles that are not fossil fuel-reliant.
And the more consumers and businesses that shift over to these vehicles equates into fewer dollars going towards badly-needed dollars for transportation and infrastructure funding.
If you question that, consider this: a report in Sunday’s New York Times pointed out that the U.S. Government’s gasoline tax receipts fell 2 percent between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2010, citing Federal Highway Administration data.
The NYT report also points out that the U.S. gasoline tax is “almost laughably low compared with those in Europe,” and “meanwhile inflation and particularly road repair costs have soared.”
What’s more, several carriers, especially in recent years, have been of the opinion that they would be more than willing to pay more in gasoline taxes, provided the funding goes back into the roads.
As you can see the current situation is a bit, um, muddled. Nothing new. But something has to give. I guess the real question is “if and when?”
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