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A gas tax hike will solve exactly none of our problems

News reports indicate that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is considering a higher gas tax to pay for the $1.5 t...

Posted: Feb 17, 2018 1:27 PM
Updated: Feb 17, 2018 1:27 PM

News reports indicate that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is considering a higher gas tax to pay for the $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. "The President has not declared anything out of bounds, so everything is on the table," Chao said.

And Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) even said that President Donald Trump may support a tax bump up of 25 cents a gallon. The current tax is 18.4 cents a gallon. When state and local levies are included, the tax can reach close to 75 cents a gallon in Pennsylvania, for example, which has the highest state gasoline tax in the country.

What a terrible and counterproductive idea. This tax increase would cost American families about $34 billion per year, one policy analyst told CNBC. And a good chunk of the recent tax cuts for the middle class would be snatched away at the gas pump.

The construction lobby, the road builders and the construction unions have been pining for higher road taxes for two decades. They say that the tax hasn't been hiked since the mid-1990s -- and thus hasn't kept pace with inflation.

That's true. Almost everyone agrees that the current financing structure for good roads and highways is flawed and inefficient. But a federal gas tax hike would contradict the goal of the Trump infrastructure plan, which is to rely more heavily on states, localities and private investment to pay for modernizing our roads and bridges.

Yes, there are some local roads that badly need repair, but sending more money to the feds is a guaranteed way to get that money squandered. What is true is that new road construction hasn't nearly kept pace with the rise in the number of driving miles over the last 30 years (up 50% between 1980 and 2010, with miles continuing to increase for five consecutive years since 2012).

According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard calculated by INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, traffic gridlock costs the typical American rush-hour commuter an estimated 42 hours of lost time each year. This is nearly the equivalent of a lost week each year.

But this isn't because of a lack of road funding or a so-called "highway trust fund shortfall." It is primarily because according to a Heritage Foundation report, at least 25% of fuel tax funding is used for non-highway projects such as mass transit, bike paths and bus service.

This hijacking of gas tax dollars helps explain why we have so many potholes the size of a beach ball -- and why the problem will get worse if the gas tax is raised.

Congress typically raids about $10 billion a year from the highway trust fund to pay for mass transit projects. Motorists largely don't benefit from public transit because, according to a report from the Census Bureau, as recently as 2013, 86% of all workers commuted to work in a private vehicle, either alone or carpooling. Public transit has a minuscule impact on traffic gridlock -- except for a few high-density cities like Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

The gas tax is also an outdated tax because of huge gains in fuel efficiency and the increased use of electric cars that don't use gasoline

It's a 20th century solution to 21st century infrastructure needs. In about 25 years, it's plausible that a large number of Americans will have automated cars that will pick them up wherever they are, and whisk them off instantly to where they are going -- door-to-door.

In other words, in a generation, many experts say that mass transit is going to be as obsolete as the rotary phone, and we will be ripping up the tracks, not laying them down. We will have smart cars, smart roads, smart traffic lights and congestion pricing to keep traffic flowing.

Every car will have an EZ pass that will charge drivers for the roads they use and only for the roads they use. Time-consuming toll booths, already on the decline, will be no more. This will allow the private sector to own, operate and maintain our roads with minimal government involvement.

This improved transportation network could add hundreds of billions of dollars to the American GDP. And all this can be done with lower, not higher, gas taxes paid at the pump.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33591

Reported Deaths: 1204
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds269748
DeSoto181818
Madison138236
Jones117349
Harrison104014
Rankin103515
Neshoba102274
Lauderdale94281
Forrest93943
Scott79215
Jackson72717
Washington64310
Copiah63115
Leake61320
Lee58621
Holmes57341
Oktibbeha56828
Wayne55416
Warren55320
Yazoo5436
Grenada5357
Lowndes52613
Leflore52256
Lincoln50935
Lamar5027
Pike47020
Sunflower4528
Lafayette4374
Monroe43635
Covington4195
Panola3996
Bolivar38018
Attala37524
Simpson3733
Newton35710
Adams34019
Pontotoc3266
Tate32313
Marion31312
Claiborne29310
Chickasaw29219
Winston28711
Pearl River27632
Noxubee2758
Marshall2693
Jasper2676
Clay25511
Union23811
Smith23412
Walthall2267
Coahoma2156
Clarke21425
Lawrence1992
Yalobusha1938
Kemper18014
Carroll17311
Tallahatchie1664
Humphreys15910
Montgomery1493
Calhoun1475
Tippah14411
Itawamba1418
Hancock13813
Webster12811
Tunica1193
Jefferson1173
Jefferson Davis1164
Prentiss1123
Greene10810
Amite1063
George1023
Wilkinson959
Tishomingo921
Quitman891
Alcorn852
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone732
Franklin492
Benton420
Sharkey420
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 48588

Reported Deaths: 1042
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6030162
Mobile4418137
Montgomery4339109
Tuscaloosa254448
Madison19078
Marshall186611
Shelby150924
Lee149437
Morgan12205
Baldwin111410
Walker105127
Elmore98919
Dallas9639
Franklin92216
Etowah88214
DeKalb8416
Chambers65727
Russell6570
Autauga65313
Butler64328
Tallapoosa61669
Unassigned58626
Limestone5741
Houston5526
Cullman5395
Lauderdale5376
Lowndes48022
St. Clair4692
Colbert4656
Pike4595
Escambia4528
Calhoun4365
Coffee4074
Covington39911
Jackson3742
Bullock37010
Barbour3672
Dale3621
Talladega3497
Hale33722
Marengo33011
Wilcox2968
Clarke2946
Winston2893
Chilton2872
Sumter28512
Blount2731
Pickens2556
Monroe2492
Marion24514
Randolph2449
Conecuh2277
Perry2091
Bibb2081
Macon2069
Choctaw20212
Greene1928
Henry1433
Crenshaw1273
Washington1277
Lawrence1170
Cherokee1127
Geneva920
Lamar811
Fayette781
Clay742
Coosa621
Cleburne411
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