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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Group Supports 40-Cent Gas Tax Increase

posted by on January 15 at 13:39 PM

Man the barricades! An organization did a two-year study and found that a 40-cent increase in federal gas taxes would improve traffic safety, reduce congestion, and promote greenhouse-gas-reducing alternatives to driving.

They also suggested more tolls, more “congestion pricing’ measures, and higher fees for freight.

The name of this insidious group of social engineers? The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, created by Congress in 2005.

Under the proposal to raise gas taxes, the current tax of 18.4 cents per gallon would be increased by 5 cents to 8 cents annually for five years and then indexed to inflation afterward to help fix the infrastructure, expand public transit and highways as well as broaden railway and rural access.

Other sources of revenue could come from tolls, peak-hour “congestion pricing” on highways, freight fees and ticket taxes for passenger rail improvements, according to the report.

They’re supported, by the way, by other well-known anti-American organizations such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

RSS icon Comments


Amen. The legislature's insistence on no new gas taxes is ridiculous. Big Oil regularly raises the price of gas by that amount every Memorial Day with no repercussions but Frank Chopp won't even consider going there.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | January 15, 2008 1:39 PM

So a bunch of big business flacks want us peons to foot the bill for infrastructure to keep them profitable? Color me shocked.

Posted by Mr. X | January 15, 2008 1:41 PM

Yeah! Kick the poor people off my roads!

Posted by Cale | January 15, 2008 1:47 PM

All sensible solutions, that come with the imprimatur of having been commissioned by Congress.

Just like the report that Nixon quashed advocating legalizing pot.

Posted by Gitai | January 15, 2008 1:52 PM

Poor people already pay for your roads via income, property, and sometimes sales tax.

Posted by Anon | January 15, 2008 1:54 PM

Meanwhile, Crosscut reports the BC provincial government is proposing a $14 billion transit plan. Most of it is for the greater Vancouver area: $10 billion for 4 new rail lines.

Imagine the Washington state government proposing a $14 billion transit plan. For the tri-county area.

This is *transit*. Not roads.

Posted by BB | January 15, 2008 1:55 PM

Hooray! Too bad it'll never happen. There are precious few elected officials willing to stand up to the inalienable right of every American to purchase inexpensive gas.

Posted by MplsKid | January 15, 2008 1:57 PM

I would have said 50 cents, with the extra 10 cents being used to address the 30 year backlog of road repairs and replacements in this state.

But, Anon is right, we should tax the ultra-rich for this, using a tax on Tim Eyman and anyone else like him.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 15, 2008 1:58 PM

This makes complete sense, along with a special tax of gaz-guzzling SUVs that add extra wear and tear to roads. The money should be spent on public transportation and a tax credit or grant should be given to lower-income workers who need to drive to work. (If I were king.) Meanwhile, Romney's bitching to carmakers in Michigan about the fuel standard that Bush passed (which are the biggest joke). When will US companies make fuel-efficient cars? wtf.

Posted by thegayrecluse | January 15, 2008 1:59 PM


“…higher fees for freight…”

So, to be clear, you’re advocating for higher prices for baby formula and malt liquor? That’s not going to set well with at least one special interest group with influence over the Democrats…

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | January 15, 2008 2:00 PM

Of course, over the past two years, gas prices have went up by over $1.00.

Has that resulted in more than twice the improvement in traffic safety, reduction of congestion, and promotion of greenhouse-gas-reducing alternatives to driving that a 40 cent tax would have provided?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 15, 2008 2:00 PM

Whoever said it was insidious or anti-American to hike up gas taxes and impose congestion pricing? It's neither of those things, but it is classist. I know it's a good way to reduce environmental pollution and our dependence on non-renewable (and foreign) energy, but Cale @3 is absolutely right - you'd just be kicking the poor people off the roads, not the rich folks with the giant Hummers and Escalades. It's fine if you want to champion this study, but you should at least acknowledge those implications...

Posted by Hernandez | January 15, 2008 2:02 PM


Anyone who pays Income &/or Property Taxes is not "poor"...

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | January 15, 2008 2:03 PM


Thats the sort of cream that comes with the Olympics...

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | January 15, 2008 2:06 PM


Do you pay rent? Yeah, then you're paying property taxes.

Posted by Anon | January 15, 2008 2:10 PM

The Federal gas tax of a flat 18 cents per gallon is a relic of $1.20 gas prices. The tax should be tied to a PERCENTAGE of price per gallon. And 15% sounds good to me.

Posted by DOUG. | January 15, 2008 2:10 PM


No. I don't pay rent. I invest in property instead.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | January 15, 2008 2:12 PM

Will never happen. Americans would rather go to war and let oil companies price gouge them up an additional $2/ gallon than have some kind of "big government" tax that fixes the roads they actually drive on or, worse, gives them more efficient and cheaper alternatives to driving.

Posted by wf | January 15, 2008 2:16 PM

@ 10: Describing is not advocating.

Posted by ECB | January 15, 2008 2:18 PM


And if you pay rent (as opposed to live in government subsidized housing) then you are not “poor” (you’re probably just not as rich as you think you should be).

“Poor” people live in government subsidized housing or squat in shacks or sleep on benches in parks or in doorways… “Poor” people go to bed cold and hungry…

Perspective is important and words do actually still have meaning.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | January 15, 2008 2:18 PM

Only filthy communists and America-hating traitors want to "fix the infrastructure, expand public transit and highways as well as broaden railway and rural access."

I'll be awaiting their full terrahist confessions from their cells at Guantanamo Bay.

Posted by Original Andrew | January 15, 2008 2:23 PM

ECB @ 19:

I am glad to know that you do not support implementing the suggestions in this study.

I did not think you had that much common sense…

I apologize.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | January 15, 2008 2:24 PM

@20 - I think "low-income" is the more accurate word choice in this case.

Posted by Hernandez | January 15, 2008 2:25 PM

I'm totally confused. I thought a higher gas tax or a congestion tax, both of which would encourage mass transit ridership, carpooling, and higher fuel efficiency, would be welcomed by the SLOG community.

Instead I hear tired class warfare arguments about how regressive sales taxes are. As if poor people are living in Kirland and driving to Seattle. Or as if they drive Ford Expeditions instead of '87 Civics.

But I guess some people around here would rather just dynamite all the bridges and freeways so that everyone has to move far away (because we can't build condos or highrises in town, of course!) When 2.5 million of the 3.2 million residents of the Puget Sound move to some far away land, the problem will be solved!

Posted by Big Sven | January 15, 2008 2:26 PM

I like Big Sven's solution; that's some out of the box thinking! And no %^&#$@ tax hikes. Now where can we lay our hands on some dynamite?

Posted by Original Andrew | January 15, 2008 2:30 PM

@11 "Of course, over the past two years, gas prices have went up by over $1.00.

Has that resulted in more than twice the improvement in traffic safety, reduction of congestion, and promotion of greenhouse-gas-reducing alternatives to driving that a 40 cent tax would have provided?"

Since demand for gas is so price inelastic, probably not. But instead of going towards improved highways and expanded public transit, that extra buck a gallon ended up lining the pockets of oil companies and corrupt rulers of backward Middle Eastern states. Get some decent funding for public transit, and demand for gas will become a lot more price sensitive.

Posted by MplsKid | January 15, 2008 2:33 PM

You drive on it, you pay for it.

Sounds too sensible to pass through our ever so rational political process.

Posted by Westside forever | January 15, 2008 2:41 PM

Actually, in terms of the 30 year backlog on Washington State roads and bridges, it is estimated that 90 percent of the wear and tear is from commercial trucks - and most of that is from 18 wheelers.

So a GVW-linked surtax makes the most sense.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 15, 2008 2:51 PM


Then Malt liquor is going to get real expensive.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | January 15, 2008 3:01 PM

@26: In short time frames (a few days or weeks) gasoline demand is relatively inelastic. In longer time frames, however (several months to several years), demand is very elastic.

And @9, SUVs do not cause appreciably more damage to the road than cars. The atmosphere, yes, but not the pavement. What causes the most damage to the asphalt? Articulated buses, 18-wheelers, and concrete trucks. Cars and pickup trucks (or SUVs) do hardly any damage by comparison.

Posted by Greg | January 15, 2008 3:01 PM

@29 - not if you buy locally. And they ship it by rail.

Thanks for agreeing with me, Greg @30 - really, this 40 cents should be on commercial vehicles and primarily 18-wheelers, and maybe on camper vans. We already have agrarian exemptions, so it won't impact the grain, just the beer.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 15, 2008 3:22 PM

I used 'poor' from Cale's snarky comment which I took to mean "less well-off folks can afford to drive cars but not pay an extra 40 cents per gallon for this tax."

Meanwhile, 'low-income' residents throughout the country that can't even afford (or chose not to have) a car in the first place are already subsidizing roads when they pay their landlord's property tax, etc.

Posted by Anon | January 15, 2008 3:25 PM

just pay the damn taxes and shut up.

with the good infrastructure the "rich" drivers' gas taxes pay for, the "poor" will have better public transit to use instead of driving their '87 whatevers.

Posted by Judith | January 15, 2008 3:32 PM

There are a lot of people in this country who live in places where mass transit isn't a reasonable alternative at all. Lower population density makes mass transit a losing economic proposition. Maybe we should just all move to the largest 25 metro areas.

Posted by Smade | January 15, 2008 3:55 PM

@34 - sure, once we take away your guns.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 15, 2008 5:41 PM

Actually, significantly higher gas prices do have a direct impact on the environment. When gas prices nearly doubled after Katrina, the sales of SUVs tanked. The US auto manufacturers were left scrambling because all their profits were coming from SUV sales, and they had little to offer in the way of smaller fuel efficient cars (naturally). Meanwhile, Prius' are selling as fast as they can crank them out of the factory.

Some people will buy smaller fuel efficient cars, or take transit, as a lifestyle choice out of concern for the environment. That's super, but you'll never get the whole population to buy into that. Lots of people only care about gas milage when it starts effecting their wallet.

I say add a $1 p/gallon gas tax. The more expensive gas is, the more people will switch to transit or high milage cars.

On a more subtle level, if you increase the cost of shipping, that would encourage buying locally and discourage frivolous imports (like, why do we need bottled water from Fiji, nearly halfway around the globe? And why is that even financially viable?). That would both help the environment and local employment. So be sure to add that $1 p/gallon tax on diesel fuel for trucks, trains, and ships too. And jet fuel.

Posted by Reverse Polarity (formerly SDA in SEA) | January 16, 2008 12:52 AM

Yes.. lets bring gas way over $3 a gallon... great idea... shouldn't road repair be covered by current taxes or is the government just now realizing that they must take care of our road system? I personally wouldn't be able to afford this hike, i already pay $120 a week in gas and because of the gas prices my truck has depreciated to much that i can't afford to take the negative equity on a trade in or sell it. Not everyone can afford a $300 - $400 payment for a new gas effecient car.

Posted by Daniel | January 16, 2008 8:07 AM

Let's be clear- it's not that we should tax gas because we think taxation is a good way to effect "socially responsible behavior." We should tax gas because people should carry the cost of their behavior, and single-occupancy gas-guzzling SUVs don't currently pay for their infrastructure and environmental load. When consumers have to pay for their effects, they make better and more informed choices.

I'm not anti-road and I'm not anti-suburbs, but the government should neither subsidize nor penalize cars. They should just make them pay their fair share. And right now I think (though I don't have any stats) that means a larger gas tax and/or a congestion tax.

Posted by Big Sven | January 16, 2008 8:28 AM

Toll roads cost MORE to build and maintain than free roads (not to mention the secret deals), the gas tax makes the most sense. It costs 25 cents to collect a cash toll!


Posted by Sal "The Muckraker" Costello | January 16, 2008 10:01 AM

Very good points, Big Sven.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 16, 2008 10:19 AM

U must be making a car payment, which means sometime in the last 5 yrs you had a choice to purchase a economically viable vehical, one that gets decent gas mileage. A choice you should have considered a little closer before your gas bill went to $120/week. They're plenty of cars out there that you can purchase for less then $300-$400/month car payments. May not be the status car your driving but you'll garner no sympathy from me for having to NOW pay too much for gas. These issues were around and have been around for the last 30 yrs let alone the last 5.
Im all for keeping this a class issue as long as we are talking about taxing the haves(upperclass)and not the havenots (lower class) as well as usage fees for Corporations who use the roads at a disproportionatly higher volumes then others and at $120 a week that would be whatever job you have.

Posted by drone5969 | January 16, 2008 1:08 PM

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