Let’s Fill Up on Gas Tax Facts

(Originally posted at https://www.uschamber.com/blog/let-s-fill-gas-tax-facts)

By Janet Kavinoky, Vice President, Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition & Executive Director, Transportation & Infrastructure at U.S. Chamber of Commerce

A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Carly Fiorina and Penny Nancy about the gas tax was eloquent but false.

The average motorist currently pays $7.50 per month in federal gas tax, which has been 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. This money goes entirely to build and maintain the highways, bridges and transit systems that keep the economy moving.  A modest gas tax increase that would enable continued funding of both roads and bridges, as well as transit, would cost motorists an additional $4 or $5 a month.  However, Americans already are paying much more than they should to fix their vehicles because of poor road and bridge conditions – along with time wasted in traffic — because of Congress’ inaction on transportation infrastructure funding.

We partnered with AAA and the American Trucking Associations recently to create a pictorial view of this reality. It is disingenuous to suggest this would bankrupt the middle class — especially since funds would go fully to improve the condition, safety and performance of America’s transportation system.

The article subjectively claims 16% of federal spending from the Highway Trust Fund is “wasteful” and “pet pork projects,” pointing to investments in big urban public transportation systems as the main “waste” of money.  Of the $41 billion budgeted for highways in federal fiscal year 2015, less than $1 billion may — not must — be project costs such as managing storm water runoff and other federal mandates, or for sidewalks and bike paths. This is not the billions and billions of dollars that the authors would have readers believe.

Of the $12.1 billion in FY2015 transit funding, nearly $10 billion is distributed across all 50 states to relieve road congestion and provide options to get Americans of all economic levels to work, doctors’ offices, schools and places to shop.  The authors may personally consider transit and sidewalks “wasteful spending,” but their claim that doing away with these things “would make the fund 98% solvent overnight” is inaccurate and would fill less than half of the current shortfall.

The last highway and transit bill – MAP-21 – built accountability into the funding process and significantly reduced the amount of money spent on non-transportation activities. More accountability is always a good goal — one the U.S. Chamber of Commerce fully supports — but a debate using facts is essential for Congress to arrive at a solution that funds America’s highways and public transit programs through this year and into the future.

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