Government, Transportation

What if the feds cut the gas tax?

by cookieevans5, on Flickr

by cookieevans5, on Flickr

A pair of Republicans, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Representative Tom Graves (R-Georgia-14th), want to dramatically cut the federal gas tax, from about $0.18 to less than $0.04. If the package, called the Transportation Empowerment Act, passed, what would this mean for transportation policy in the United States?

Greater Greater Washington asked that question, and its writers responded. Though there are significant downsides to such a move, especially for California, the result wouldn’t be all bad:

Despite the best efforts of advocates, federal transportation dollars overwhelmingly favor roadway projects, and most of those are highways or overbuilt arterials. And, given that these are often capital projects, the end result is high maintenance costs on localities that wouldn’t have built the project in the first place if the money weren’t “free” from the feds.

If states raise their own gas tax to match the loss, they’d be able to use that money how they see fit. A whole slew of federal strings would come off, freeing states to make the decisions they think they ought. While that might mean more questionable interchanges in Wisconsin, that state will actually need to pay for them entirely.

Advocates’ fear that states won’t raise their gas tax are certainly valid, of course. The tax discourages driving and was designed to fund infrastructure of national importance. Eliminating it would cut the federal government’s ability to do either of those things. Yet the chance to cut all the bloat and waste advocates fight against and this money encourages would be quite a silver lining.

Continue reading on Greater Greater Washington.

Written by David Edmondson

David Edmondson

David is a native Marinite working in Washington, DC. He writes about how to apply smart-growth and urbanist thinking to the low-density towns of his home.

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