A new study by AAA finds that 51% of Americans would be willing to pay higher gasoline taxes if the extra money would pay for better roads. And they say they would be more likely to support political candidates who support spending more money on transportation projects.
It’s no secret that America’s highways are suffering from
years decades of neglect. As a nation, we place a higher priority on building new roads than on maintaining the ones we already have. Part of the problem is that the Highway Trust Fund, which collects 18.3 cents on each gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents on a gallon of diesel, is due to run out of money in August because today’s cars are getting more fuel efficient, and thus using less fuel. That’s good for the environment but bad for tax collections.
AAA warns that if the Highway Trust Fund is depleted, badly needed repairs to our roads throughout the country would be delayed, making driving next winter more dangerous.
According to AAA’s president and CEO, Bob Darbelnet;
“Americans are fed up with record-long commutes, unsafe highways and never-ending potholes caused by political inaction. Congress must prevent severe maintenance delays during the height of the summer driving season by preventing a Highway Trust Fund bankruptcy in August. Many of us are willing to pay a little more if it means we will have access to better roads, bridges and transit systems. It is time for our nation’s leaders to stand with those in Congress who support improving our country’s transportation system.”
Is Darbelnet correct? Yes, raising gas taxes would raise more money for the Highway Trust Fund., but that’s only part of the puzzle. Americans are buying more hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars that use much less gasoline, or electric cars that use no gasoline at all. That has some states imposing annual registration fees on EVs, though that has raised the ire of environmentalists. So raising the gas tax is not going to solve the problem no matter how big the increase is.
What is needed are creative new ideas about how to pay for road repairs and maintenance in the future. Gas taxes alone are just not going to be able carry that entire burden without help.