December 2013 - Volume 18, Number 4
Gasoline Taxes: Funding Roads or Pork?
by Jonathan Williams
According to the American Petroleum Institute, federal, state, and local taxes average 48.8 cents per gallon of unleaded gasoline and 54.4 cents per
gallon of diesel. As drivers face that burden each time they fill up at the pump, it is necessary for lawmakers to show that these funds are being used prudently.
For the past 100 years, American motorists have been enamored with better roadways, and the benefits of increased personal mobility cannot be overstated. Gasoline taxes provided the vast majority of funding required to bring the United States into the
automobile age and to build the interstate highway system. For generations, Americans
thought of gasoline taxes as the price of mobility in America; however, with increasing
Gasoline taxes in America were levied upon the premise that they would serve as a user fee for roads. If the benefit principle is to work, governments must ensure gasoline tax dollars are spent to build and maintain roads for the benefit of users who pay the gasoline tax.
Unfortunately, gasoline taxes have unquestionably departed from their historical justification, rooted in the
The recent acceleration away from the benefit principle is detrimental to sound tax policy, quality public roads, and the overall integrity of government “trust funds.” If benefit-principle taxation is to survive as the foremost source of road funding, lawmakers must insist on more oversight to ensure revenue from gasoline tax user fees do not support bridges to nowhere or attempts to eradicate the fruit fly. Instead, these user fees should be used to build the roads of the 21st century and to provide a fair and equitable transportation system for all American motorists. For additional information, please see “Paying at the Pump: Gasoline Taxes in America” at www.taxfoundation.org.
Jonathan Williams is Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council's Task Force on Tax and Fiscal Policy as well as the Center for State Fiscal Reform.
This article appeared in the March/April 2013 edition of Inside ALEC and is reprinted with permission from the American Legislative Exchange Council.
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