The gas tax has been the same since 1993. That’s as long as I’ve been alive. In that time, I’ve seen phones transform from Sidekicks to iPhones, computers become lightweight and touch-screen, and even vehicles go from straight hooptie town cars to electric, engine-free ones that float pointlessly in space.
Amid all this, there’s been no innovation on the gas tax front, which sits at 18.4 cents per gallon. Why not increase it? On Wednesday, President Donald Trump made it clear he thinks we should—a stark shift from his traditional stance on vehicle emissions and taxes.
Trump wants to increase the gas tax to 25 cents to help fund his proposed $200 billion infrastructure plan. Money from the gas tax goes toward the Highway Trust Fund, whose sole purpose is to build and maintain U.S. highways. That fund is set to go bankrupt in the face of more fuel-efficient cars, fewer cars on the road, and the gas tax’s blind eye to inflation, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Shouldn’t the people who use gas help contribute to the upkeep of roads that help them get from place to place?
Though Democrats appear on board, Republicans are split on the idea. While Pennsylvania Representative Bill Shuster is all for it, his colleagues who lend their ears (and pockets) to the Koch network won’t be so keen. Almost 30 industry groups sent Congress a joint letter Monday voicing their concern.
“I oppose raising the federal gas tax,” said Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, who receives mad money from the oil and gas industry, to The Washington Post. “Not everyone who uses the roads today pays the tax, and not all of the money collected goes towards fixing America’s aging roads and bridges.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been requesting a gas tax hike for a number of years, since at least 2014. The Congressional Budget Office also suggested an increase as a viable option to address the federal deficit back in 2016. If a tax were implemented this year, it would raise anywhere from $303 billion to $394 billion over the next 10 years, according to research firm Energy Innovation.
At least 26 states like California and Tennessee have raised their gas taxes in the last four years to improve their roads.
And although Trump might not care about it, a gas tax would have obvious environmental benefits. Fuel consumption would likely drop, and the tax would help boost consumer interest in electric vehicles. That’s a necessary shift in the face of climate change, seeing as transportation is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
If I’m keeping it real, though, this proposed tax hike is likely going to flop—just like Trump’s infrastructure plan. It’ll need broad support, and Congress can’t agree on jack shit most days. The days of futuristic (or at least maintained) highways may still be a ways off, but at least space cars have arrived. Right?