The federal gas tax was last raised in 1993 and, anytime anyone countenances raising it, it goes nowhere. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington now say it is at least time to think about it.
Raising the gas tax is not as radical an idea you might think, with one survey last year saying that 75 percent of respondents were in favor of the idea if the money was for infrastructure maintenance. That number fell to 44 percent when respondents were told the money would go for “transportation” instead. The study, an annual survey by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University, also noted the following:
Support for raising the gas tax has risen slowly but steadily since 2010 ... The increases range from 8 to 20 percentage points.
So, raising the gas tax: Not radical, even popular depending on how it’s spent. Which made it a little curious when the Biden administration nixed the idea this month after unveiling its massive infrastructure bill, because you might think that arguing to raise the gas tax to help fund an infrastructure rebuild would be an idea that could get some traction.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a group of 58 lawmakers in Congress agree, releasing a report Friday proposing such a thing.
The group of 58 lawmakers, dubbed the Problem Solvers Caucus, proposed indexing gas and diesel taxes to inflation, highway construction costs, fuel-economy standards, or some combination of the three in a report on infrastructure released Friday. The report lays out other possible fee increases, including a vehicle-miles traveled tax that would collect revenue from electric vehicles.
While the bipartisan group doesn’t lay out specific funding levels, it does call for federal investments in rail, water infrastructure, and broadband. They propose easing regulations on approving new projects and incentivizing more private investment in infrastructure, among other measures.
You can read their report in full here, but the important thing is not that this proposal will go anywhere — it probably won’t. The important thing is moving a raise of the gas tax inside the Overton window, if it isn’t there already. Because we do need to fix America’s infrastructure; we also need to incentivize behaviors that decrease harmful emissions on a broad scale. Raising the gas tax can help do both.