Why Hasn’t Congress Raised the Federal Gas Tax Since 1993?

Stephen Henderson talks with Alec McGillis, Political Reporter for ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom based in New York, about why congress hasn’t increased the national gas tax since 1993.

  • Washington dysfunction: McGillis says that the failure to raise the gas tax is a symptom of Washington disfunction. He says that if there was a secret ballot, representatives would vote in favor of raising the tax, but they are afraid that voting to raise it would mean political death. 
  • Diminishing returns: McGillis says that because of inflation and increasing gas mileage, the existing tax level delivers less than it did when it was implemented. 
  • Orphan tax”: McGillis calls the federal gas tax an “orphan tax” because neither party takes ownership of it. He says Republicans are hesitant to raise taxes, and Democrats favor other structures because they feel it is regressive. 
  • Government mistrust: McGillis says that several states have increased their gas taxes, and that there has been no political backlash against the legislators who voted in favor of this. He says this is possible on a state but not federal level in part because of the conservative campaign of mistrust against the federal government for the past 30 years. 
  • Tax restructuring: A caller says that he supports raising the gas tax, but would also like to see corporate taxes raised and loopholes eliminated to find more money.  McGillis says that there is a current push to eliminate corporate loopholes, but that the government will have to deicide what to do with any revenue increase from this, so it will not go directly or easily into road funding. 

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.

 

Image credit: Anthony Inswasty

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