NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Gas Tax Funds Special Programs

May 24, 2011

Washington collects as much as $25 billion in federal gasoline taxes a year.  Ideally -- and ethically -- every penny of those taxes should be spent on federal roads, repairing the old ones and building new ones where needed.  But it isn't.  Only about 60 percent is used for federal highways and bridges.  The rest is spent on whatever Washington decides to use it for, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD). 

  • In many cases the taxes fund museums, bike paths, trails and lighthouse repair.
  • A good chunk of the federal gasoline tax is also used to subsidize public transportation -- when the tax was hiked by a nickel in 1982, a penny of that increase was committed to urban transit.
  • Meanwhile, car commuters are stuck in traffic, and ruining tires and suspensions on cracked asphalt and broken concrete.

In separate bills, a couple of state lawmakers in Michigan, Paul Opsommer and Tom McMillin, have introduced resolutions asking Washington to let the states keep the revenues from the federal gasoline tax rather than round-tripping the money around the Beltway.

  • No doubt, politics and grasping bureaucrats are also at the state level, but states are better suited for making the right decisions about where the money is spent.
  • They know what the right priorities are, and state lawmakers are more accountable to the voters because they still live down the street or across town.

Letting states keep and spend the revenues would also make the dollars go further, says IBD.

Source: "Patching Potholes," Investor's Business Daily, May 19, 2011.

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