Just last month, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. infrastructure another dismal grade and every media outlet and lawmaker in the country, it seemed, bellyached about how we need to invest more. And then Gallup asked Americans if they’d be willing to raise the gas tax by 20 cents a gallon. The answer was a big, fat, “No.”
Two-thirds of respondents in the Gallup poll said they would oppose a hike in the gas tax. Republicans were especially opposed, with just 15 percent favoring the hike. Perhaps if it were framed as a user fee that kept taxes from being raised on the general public, they would be more amenable to the idea?
Somewhat embarrassingly, low-income respondents were the most willing to accept a higher gas tax. Thirty-six percent of people who make under $24,000 a year said they’d support a tax hike, where only 25 percent of folks who make $24,000 to $59,999 said they would. Midwesterners and Southerners were also most tax-averse, with people on the coasts somewhat more willing to pay.
The poll was conducted April 9 and 10, about two weeks after Maryland lawmakers passed the first increase in the state’s gas tax in 20 years to pay for road and transit projects.
But Marylanders aren’t alone in facing the prospect of higher gas taxes whether they want them or not: Thirty states are currently debating or have recently passed measures aimed at bringing in more funding for transportation [PDF]. Arizona and Florida want to study the feasibility of a vehicle-miles-traveled fee; Arkansas is considering raising sales taxes and raiding the general fund to pay for highways; California wants to raise the gas tax; Connecticut is contemplating tolling — and on and on. In the absence of the political courage to act at the federal level, states are making difficult choices themselves.