It seems we can’t go very long without a transportation crisis of some kind, with energy prices consistently fluctuating, vehicle manufacturers recalling millions upon millions of vehicles, infrastructure crumbling around us, and even politicians using bridges as weapons to strike back at rivals. Flying somewhat under the radar in the middle of this whole mess is the slow countdown to the eventual depletion of the Highway Trust Fund.
President Obama has previously said that if the Trust Fund is completely depleted, 112,000 roadway projects and 5,600 transit projects could be shut down. But that’s nothing compared to the estimated 700,000 jobs that could be lost as well. Those are the kinds of numbers that can send the country swirling back towards recession, which America has only recently been finally shaking off. While that could make for some convenient political circumstances leading into 2016, there isn’t much doubt that it would be a bad thing for average Americans.
That leaves us in a conundrum. How do we replenish the Highway Trust Fund, and ensure the program’s stability for years to come? It’s simple: we raise the gas tax.
Currently, the federal tax on gasoline is 18.4%, and 24.4% for diesel. On top of that, states add their own taxes, which on average comes to 23.47% for gasoline and 24% for diesel. This does have a significant impact on the price of fuel at the pump, which ends up hitting most motorists hard in the wallet. The surprising thing is that the gas tax hasn’t been bumped up in over two decades, and over that time the value it has returned to road funding has eroded significantly. Add on the fact that hybrid technology and electric vehicles are taking off, and less fuel is being sold with which to collect tax revenue from, and its clear that we have a problem on our hands.