Poll: Two-thirds of Americans oppose gas tax hikes
According to Gallup, Americans may object to increasing gas prices while the economy is still unstable.
As state legislatures across the U.S. debate whether to raise gas taxes to repair crumbling roads, a new Gallup poll finds that two-thirds of Americans would vote against gas tax hikes in their home state.
According to a poll conducted earlier this month, 66 percent of those surveyed are opposed to raising their state gas taxes by up to 20 cents a gallon, with the purported goal of improving roads and bridges and building more mass transit. That means roughly three in 10 Americans would vote for an increase in the gas tax in their state.
The poll was conducted approximately two weeks after the Maryland legislature passed the first gas tax hike in the state in 20 years. Money raised by the tax increase, which analysts expect to boost gas prices between 13 and 20 cents per gallon by mid-2016, will help pay for transportation infrastructure and mass-transit projects.
Sixteen states haven't raised gasoline taxes in 20 years or more, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, and it's a debate that often comes up but hardly brings any outcome. Only a handful of states -- Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia -- have raised gas taxes over the past five years.
Gallup said that at least 17 states -- under both Democratic and Republican control -- are considering raising the gas tax or other related fees to help fund roadway, infrastructure and mass-transit projects and repairs. The polling organization added that these tax hike proposals don’t have majority support among any partisan group or in any region, though they’re slightly more popular among Democrats.
The poll also discovered that people living in the West are more prone to support a gas tax hike, followed by those in the East. Americans in the South and Midwest are less likely to support a rise in gas taxes to pay for transportation infrastructure improvements.
It also found that lower- and upper-income Americans are “marginally more likely” than middle-income individuals to favor a gas tax increase. Gallup speculated that Americans may be opposed to increasing the price of gas while the economy is still unstable, no matter how the resulting money is used.
Gallup also reported that it’s unclear whether lack of support for gas taxes to improve transportation infrastructure “stems from the type, amount or purpose of the tax.” According to experts interviewed by USA Today, “politicians have done a poor job of explaining to voters the connection between the taxes they pay at the pump and better roads, less congestion and safer rides."
Gallup said that lawmakers in some states have approved or considered alternative to gas tax hikes, such as a sales tax or pay-per-mile fees -- suggested by the federal Government Accountability Office in January -- that could garner more public support. The federal gas tax, at 18.4 cents per gallon, has not been raised since 1993.
Oregon, Washington and Vermont are among states considering replacing or supplementing gasoline taxes with one that taxes vehicles by the miles traveled, for example. Gallup also pointed out that states are starting to look beyond the traditional gas tax since modern, more fuel-efficient vehicles and changes in driving habits have resulted in less revenue.
According to the Energy Information Agency, California has the highest gas tax in the U.S., at 38.16 cents per gallon, while Alaska has the lowest at 8 cents. The latest information from the federal agency also indicates that the average tax on a gallon of gas for all states was 23.47 cents as of April 9.
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