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Survey: People Hate a Gas Tax Hike, Unless It Pays for Something

11:11 AM EDT on June 25, 2013

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The federal gas tax hasn't been raised in decades, but the idea of doing something about it seems like a political nonstarter in Washington because everyone knows how much people hate higher gas taxes. Shane Phillips at Network blog Better Institutions says maybe public sentiment is a little more nuanced than that, if you look at a recent survey by the Mineta Transportation Institute:

It’s taken as axiomatic at this point that attempting to raise gas taxes is political suicide, so we want to know what alternatives might be palatable to the American public, and whether gas taxes are really as anathema as they’re often portrayed.

When poll respondents were asked how they felt about a ten-cent gas tax increase (from 18 cents to 28 cents per gallon), support was abysmal at just 23%. However, support increased when a use was specified for the additional funds, and every suggested use received greater than 50% support:

This encompasses basically every possible use of gas taxes, including some that are arguably illegal under current law, but Americans support it all when you actually tell them what it’s for. Most people, of course, aren't aware that the Highway Trust Fund has been a net recipient of tens of billions of dollars over the last several years (or that there is a thing called the Highway Trust Fund, probably). But really, what do people think gas taxes are currently spent on? Medicare?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transitized explains why advertising by car companies is so deceptive. And Urban Milwaukee reports on the city's demo bike-share station, which could lead to a 25-station system soon.

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