There are two half-true arguments against raising the gas tax that drive me crazy every time I hear them. Arguments which, often, are not well rebutted by transportation stakeholders.
First up: “Raising the gasoline tax would hurt many families who are already struggling financially.” Sure, that’s true. It also impacts thousands of businesses who rely on truck deliveries. And that could raise the prices of goods, at some point.
What’s also true is that congestion and rough roads cost every family and every business hundreds of dollars or more every year. So those struggling families pay one way or the other. Why not pay a little more at the pump – three cents a gallon – and get better, safer roads instead of spending a hundred dollars or so on car repairs?
Second: The loudest cheerleaders for a gas tax increase are those who stand to gain the most: State DOT officials, labor unions and construction companies. Yeah, darn those leaders who see roads and bridges deteriorating, who see unfunded projects which could move people and goods more quickly and safely.
And darn those company executives who will keep purchasing materials from other companies to maintain and build roads and bridges, and who want projects to keep paying their employees. Employes who, by the way, buy more things when they are employed. How dare those business leaders advocate for investing in infrastructure.
Let’s be clear. A gas tax increase will cost all of us. And a gas tax will benefit all of us – not just public employees, union members and private construction company workers.
And let’s remember. Any gas tax increase must be accompanied by increased accountability and transparency, and some mechanism to ensure funding is going to the highest-priority projects that improve economic vitality and communities.