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

A survey by the Mineta Transportation Institute found that Americans become much more open to the idea of a gas tax increase if you name something it would pay for. Image: ##transweb.sjsu.edu/PDFs/research/1228-American-tax-poll-2013-public-transit-highways-streets-roads.pdf##MTI##

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.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Actually, Highway Builders, Roads Don’t Pay For Themselves

|
You’ve heard it a thousand times from the highway lobby: Roads pay for themselves through “user fees” — a.k.a. gas taxes and tolls — whereas transit is a drain on the taxpayer. They use this argument to push for new roads, instead of transit, as fiscally prudent investments. The myth of the self-financed road meets […]

Drivers Cover Just 51 Percent of U.S. Road Spending

|
There’s a persistent misconception in American culture that transit is a big drain on public coffers while roads conveniently and totally pay for themselves through the magic of gas taxes. And that used to be true — at least for interstate highways, a fraction of the total road network. But that was many, many failed […]

Is Raising the Gas Tax Really the Answer?

|
Cross-posted from the Frontier Group … In the 1920s, Great Britain debated the future of its Road Fund – a pot of money raised from vehicle excise taxes and devoted exclusively to road repair. Then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill opposed the fund, arguing that, if drivers paid taxes dedicated solely to roads, “It will be only […]

It’s Time to Stop Pretending That Roads Pay for Themselves

|
If nothing else, the current round of federal transportation legislating should end the myth that highways are a uniquely self-sufficient form of infrastructure paid for by “user fees,” a.k.a. gas taxes and tolls. With all the general tax revenue that goes toward roads in America, car infrastructure has benefited from hefty subsidies for many years. […]