The American public may be cheering falling gas prices, but they have Congress talking. Democrats and Republicans alike have started tossing around the idea of increasing the gas tax. This controversial proposal, while not exactly new, is gaining attention on Capitol Hill.
How much money are we talking?
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, household gasoline expenditures are set to be the lowest in 11 years, with the average family spending around $550 less in 2015 than in 2014.
The current gas tax sits at 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel. Proposals have been floated by congressman and economists alike to raise the tax by around 12 cents per gallon, bringing the tax up to 30 cents per gallon for gasoline.
Who supports the tax, and why?
While much of the support for raising the gas tax comes from the left side of the aisle, it’s gaining support on the right as well. In June, Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) proposed raising the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon. Back in 2011, Senator Lamar Alexander discussed raising the gas tax to fill transit fund gaps.
Additionally, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, and Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune have all expressed openness to discussing increasing the tax.
Most supporters of raising the tax suggest that the extra income should be used to compensate for the dwindling Highway Trust Fund to pay for much needed road and bridge work around the country. Supporters argue that the gas tax is less of a “tax” and more of a “user fee,” shifting the cost of road repairs to the people who use the roads.
Yet opponents to raising the tax argue that while it may seem fair, innovations like increasing miles-per-gallon and fuel efficiency reduce the uses for the tax. Senator Roy Blunt at a business roundtable:
They thought the people using the roads were paying for the roads, and everybody that’s trying to keep this transportation network in place is concerned about more miles per-gallon, more fuel efficiency standards, all actually put the same amount of traffic and weight on the road, but they reduce the amount of money you have to do anything about it. It’s a concern at all levels.