When Gov. Brown signed SB 1 into law, California joined company with a growing number of states that have implemented laws to raise fuel taxes to help pay for transportation infrastructure. A total of 22 states have passed laws imposing higher gas taxes in the past five years. Chances are good that the list will grow even longer this year.
“These states’ actions address investment needs that are critical to preserving and expanding their economies,” wrote researchers at Moody’s Investors Service. “Increasingly, states are moving to close the gap created by flat federal spending on transportation, mounting needs, more fuel efficient vehicles and the erosion of per-gallon gas taxes amid inflation.”
The federal government has gone a record-breaking 23 years without raising its gas tax. That lagging revenue has helped persuade state officials that they cannot depend on federal support to shore up their funding for roads, bridges, transit and other major transportation projects.
Indeed, the recent state-level embrace of higher gas taxes is a significant change from previous years. For many of these states, the increases mark the first adjustment to fuel taxes in a generation. Indiana had gone 14 years without a change, California, 23 years and Tennessee, 27 years.
Fears that gas tax increases would anger tax-averse voters may have been overblown. New analysis by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association shows that legislators rarely lost an election after voting to increase gas taxes. In fact, 91 percent of lawmakers who voted for gas tax hikes were re-elected in the next general election in the 16 states that increased fuel taxes between 2013 and 2015, according to the group.
Gas taxes won approval in a variety of political environments, the group noted. Nine of those 16 states were under all-Republican control, four had all-Democratic control and the rest were a mix. Those trends seem to be playing out again this year, as the most recent gas tax hikes have come from all corners of the country— California, Indiana, Montana, and Tennessee.
Source: Mass Transit Magazine