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Raise the Federal Gas Tax to Fund Infrastructure

The BriefGet Up To Speed

The Highway Trust Fund provides funding for road, bridge, and mass transit projects across the country '€“ and it'€™s running out of money. Its revenue source, the federal gas tax, at 18.4 cents a gallon, has not been raised in over two decades. Congress has been kicking this can down the road for years. There are many arguments for a leaner fund, among them, the idea that scaling back the program would force government to prioritize projects and eliminate waste. But proponents of the tax say that it still plays a vital role in supporting infrastructure, and that perpetual shortfalls have led to construction delays and uncertainty. Should Congress raise the federal gas tax?


We all want a robust long-term transportation bill. And while there is a logical solution — raise the gas tax — Congress has instead set out on a hapless mission to reinvent the wheel.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Tom Rice and Ray LaHood

The federal gas tax is, as it should be, a key source of funding for highway spending.

Friday, July 24, 2015
James Surowiecki

The main federal fund for roads and bridges runs at a deep deficit. If even red states can raise the gas tax, why can’t Congress?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Alex MacGillis

Increasing the gasoline tax—thus discouraging driving, incentivizing higher fuel efficiency, and enabling job-creating infrastructure spending—would be a good bang for the buck (or for the 12 cents a gallon).

Friday, June 27, 2014
Joshua Smith

Raising the gas tax is the wrong solution because it treats the symptom, and not the underlying reason for the shortfall.

Thursday, July 3, 2014
Randal O’Toole

Increasing federal taxing and spending is the wrong way to go. That approach would exacerbate the current problems of federal aid, and it would probably make the Byzantine sprawl of top-down mandates and complex allocation formulas even worse.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Chris Edwards

Before resorting to raising the tax burden on the American public, Congress should explore ways it can free up more money for highway projects by reducing the regulatory burden on federally funded highway projects.

Monday, July 20, 2015
Tracy Miller and Megan Hansen

There’s no pressing policy reason to increase the tax. The trust fund has plenty of money to fund highway priorities that the federal government needs to address — especially if federal money were spent more efficiently.

Friday, June 20, 2014
The Editors
Highway Trust Fund

A brief description of the Highway Trust Fund.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969
Federal Highway Administration
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Trust fund balances are currently estimated to remain just at or below the prudent balance levels through May 2016

Each time Congress has extended the Highway Trust Fund it has also extended the federal excise tax on gasoline.

Friday, September 7, 2012
James Bickley

A history of the Highway Trust Fund reauthorization process.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Dave Osiecki
Reports on Gas Tax/Options

Pros and cons of raising the federal excise tax on motor fuels to reduce the deficit.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Congressional Budget Office

This CBO report describes the status of the Highway Trust Fund and options that the Congress might consider to address the imbalance between revenues and spending from the fund.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Congressional Budget Office

What is the Highway Trust Fund, how does it get its funding, and ways to address the funding gap.

Friday, September 5, 2014
Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Lawmakers looking for additional revenue to replenish the trust fund should devise permanent provisions that conform to the trust fund’s long-standing, user-pays principle. One option to fix the trust fund is to raise the gas tax while offsetting that tax increase with an equal reduction in another tax.

Thursday, March 5, 2015
Kyle Pomerleau

This paper’s authors propose improvement and expansion of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act lending program, reauthorization of Build America Bonds, better utilization of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and reform of the federal gas tax.

Friday, May 1, 2015
Roger Altman

Congress's options for the Highway Trust Fund.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Updates on HTF Reauthorization

Congressional leaders are under new pressure to find a way to pay for highway programs after the collapse of an ambitious House effort to use a business tax overhaul to fund a transportation measure over the long term.

Sunday, October 4, 2015
John McKinnon

DOT said on August 20 that, based on current spending and revenue trends, it estimates that “the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund will encounter a shortfall in the fourth quarter of FY 2016.” That quarter runs from April 1st to June 30th of next year.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015
David Cullen

Among the worse ‘solutions’ being considered is the Senate's ironically named DRIVE Act, which it passed in July. The bill is another massive bailout of the trust fund, but goes the extra step by making the fund's spending problem even worse.

Monday, October 5, 2015
Michael Sargent
Senate & Administration Plans

The DRIVE Act provides six years of funding certainty, giving state and local governments the stability and flexibility they need to improve and advance our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969

The Administration’s proposal is funded by supplementing current revenues from the Highway Trust Fund in combination with a 14 percent transition tax on the up to $2 trillion of untaxed foreign earnings that U.S. companies have accumulated overseas. This will prevent Trust Fund insolvency for six years and increase investments to meet national economic goals.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969
Donor Donee States

The Federal Highway Administration figures indicate that for FY2007-FY2009 all 50 states were done states because outlays from the Highway Trust Fund exceeded federal highway tax receipts in each year.

Monday, June 13, 2011
Robert Kirk

Since 2005, every state received as much or more funding for highway programs than they contributed to the Highway Account of the trust fund. This was possible because more funding was authorized and apportioned than was collected from the states and the fund needed to be augmented with general revenues.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Government Accountability Office
State Gas Taxes

According to a Governing analysis, two-thirds of states' fuel taxes have failed to keep up with inflation, forcing lawmakers to revisit the politically fraught issue of raising taxes.

Monday, May 18, 2015
Daniel Vock