Federal Gas Tax Hike For Infrastructure A Non-Starter, Draws Bipartisan Opposition
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults opposed a federal 25 cent per gallon tax increase on gasoline in order to fund infrastructure improvements, according to a new poll released by Politico and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health earlier this week.
In broad, bipartisan opposition, 64 percent of U.S. adults opposed raising the federal gasoline tax by 25 cents, with 65 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Democrats opposing the gas-tax-for-infrastructure funding source.
“President Trump has suggested a 25¢ per gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax as a way to pay part of the cost of infrastructure improvements. The poll shows little support for that source of funding,” the poll’s authors wrote.
That includes 64 percent of independents as well. No fence-sitting either, as just two percent of those surveyed said they didn’t know or refused to respond.
Although they did not support a gas tax hike, the respondents did support increased infrastructure spending, with bridges (72 percent), schools (72 percent), roads (71 percent), and the power grid (58 percent) receiving bipartisan support for spending on improvements.
U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said in February that President Trump told lawmakers he would “provide the political cover” for a 25 cent increase in the federal gasoline tax.
“He [Trump] said that he knew it was a difficult thing for legislators to support and said that he would support the leadership to do that and provide the political cover to do that,” Carper told CNN.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao tempered Carper’s impression of Trump’s support, calling the proposal “not ideal” but that all options are still being considered.
“The President has not declared anything out of bounds, so everything is on the table. The gas tax, like many of the other pay-fors that are being discussed, is not ideal,” she said. “There are pros and cons. The gas tax has adverse impact, a very regressive impact, on the most vulnerable within our society; those who depend on jobs, who are hourly workers.”
U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) also pushed back against Carper’s interpretation, adding that he believed the Democrat’s political cover scenario was farfetched.
“I think that’s an exaggeration,” Inhofe said. “A combination of exaggeration and wishful thinking.”
If raised, it would be the first tax increase on gasoline since 1993.
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) said Coloradans “deserved a vote” on whether or not to raise taxes for infrastructure improvements, noting that the state also had not raised its gasoline tax since the early 1990s.
“We haven’t increased the state gas tax in over 25 years. We’ve been driving on a flat tire for almost a quarter of a century,” Hickenlooper said at his January ‘State of the State’ speech. He pointed to Colorado’s Western neighbor, Utah, which has raised its state gas tax twice over the same period.
Colorado’s state tax stands at 22 cents per gallon.
An analysis conducted by Denver’s 9NEWS concluded that state gas tax rates alone would have to be increased to nearly 57 cents per gallon in order to cover the estimated $1 billion in additional funding the Colorado Department of Transportation says it needs to cover construction and maintenance.
That figure would give Colorado the highest state gas tax in the nation, ahead of Pennsylvania, according to the station.
Wyoming raised its gas tax by 10 cents in 2013, to 24 cents per gallon. Utah’s state levy on gasoline went up 5 cents in 2015, to 29.5 cents per gallon. A January poll of Utah voters showed just under 50 percent of registered voters in the Beehive state support a gas tax increase for the state’s highways.
In contrast, multiple tax hike votes have failed in Colorado, as voters rejected all but one proposed tax increase (recreational marijuana in 2013).
The poll of 1,007 U.S. adults, conducted February 21-25 by SSRS on behalf of Politico and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, had a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent.