Crack in Anti-Gas Tax Wall?

The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hardly a left-wing organization, made a speech calling for an increase in the Federal gas tax, linking it to needed infrastructure projects and distinguishing it as a user fee rather than a tax.

6 Comments

6 Responses to Crack in Anti-Gas Tax Wall?

  1. cameron
    January 20, 2013 at 8:02 pm Link

    Whenever I have mentioned increasing the gas tax to people it is shocking how negative the reaction is. People don’t appear to be able to see a connection between relatively low gas taxes and the crappy roads and bridges we have.

  2. Ron Swaren
    January 20, 2013 at 9:35 pm Link

    I think what is needed is technological innovation to reduce costs for transportation infrastructure.

    The main recurring cost is in pavement, so innovations that could substantially increase the durability without substantially increasing the initial cost, would reduce costs in the long term. Better long range planning would help, too, so that mistakes don’t have to be corrected.

    Also, building structures on-site takes a lot of time, especially concrete structures, which require several, expensive steps in the forming of the finished concrete product. Factory produced, prefabbed components could save both a lot of time and material. The wider sidewalks on the Hawthorne bridge are lightweight, prefabbed components. Why not have a standard, mass produced sidewalk component for all ODOT bridges? Lightweight alternatives exist for some road surfaces already (Morrison Bridge as example), so couldn’t these also be used for other bridges, overpasses, viaducts, etc.?

    You have to analyze both the material cost and the labor cost. The way we do things now is very labor intensive. And if there were more standardization of components maybe the equipment (such as a crane) could actually be owned by ODOT, and not by individual contractors.

  3. Nick Falbo
    January 21, 2013 at 10:17 am Link

    I believe there is a crisis of confidence in transportation spending/funding (and potentially other forms of public spending).

    People have such a negative reaction to raising the gas tax because they are not convinced that any such increase will go to fundamental needs as they define them. And you know what? They’re probably right in a narrow sense of the idea.

    Most people drive, and gas taxes most directly affect people driving. When revenues are spent on transit improvements, bicycle routes, and even sidewalks or crossings, those improvements are resented, and public trust is lost.

  4. Chris I
    January 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm Link

    Gas tax money should be spent on sidewalks and crossings, and drivers are irrational for resenting it. If it weren’t for the automobile, we wouldn’t need sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian overpasses, etc. It’s just another one of the negative externalities that drivers typically do not pay.

  5. Chris
    January 22, 2013 at 11:05 am Link

    In Oregon, most roads are funded through property and income taxes. Gas taxes don’t actually do much to “fill the pothole.”

    Let’s start penalizing drivers for damaging our roads by charging extra fees to use studded tires or drive heavier vehicles. This alone should cover the expenses.

  6. Garlynn Woodsong
    January 24, 2013 at 3:15 pm Link

    It seems like there has been some polling recently (such as this one: http://t4america.org/blog/2011/07/13/americans-support-higher-gas-taxes-when-they-see-tangible-results/) suggesting that there is some national support for increasing the gas tax; and any future increases should at the very least be indexed to inflation, if not also adopted as phased increases that allow for the gas tax to increase at regular intervals (i.e. rise ten additional cents per gallon per year). What we keep hearing from many sectors, including the automobile industry, is that gas prices need to be guaranteed to be high (at least above $4 a gallon) for folks to be able to economically make the decision to invest in higher fuel-efficiency vehicles and do other things to reduce their driving costs; but we don’t want all of the increase in gasoline costs to just go straight into the pockets of the oil companies, further incentivizing them to spend more and more chasing ever-more-difficult-to-extract pockets of liquid deceased dinosaurs.

    Rather, to serve our many policy goals (GHG emission reductions, public health, efficient vehicles, energy independence, etc.) we need for an ever-increasing portion of the cost of gasoline to be collected by government and used to ease the transition away from an automobile-focused economy to a human-focused economy…

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