Raising the federal gasoline tax is a responsible way to help raise funds to maintain roads across America.
It is also politically unpopular in a deadlocked Congress that too often can’t seem to deal with the country’s real challenges.
But a new, bipartisan Senate plan that emerged last week to boost the tax by 12 cents a gallon deserves support in Washington. It would help better finance the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which provides about half the transportation money for many states.
Motorists aren’t paying enough into the fund to take care of all the highways and streets they travel daily. A user-pays gasoline tax increase would generate money from the very people who would benefit from it.
The current federal tax is 18.4 cents a gallon. It hasn’t been raised in two decades. The 12-cent increase would occur over two years under the proposal unveiled by Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, and Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican.
Critics of the gasoline tax often bring up the refrain that more fuel-efficient cars are cutting the amount of gas taxes paid by drivers and that Americans are driving fewer miles per person than they once did.
However, drivers across the country still used about 134.5 billion gallons of gasoline in 2013, just 6 percent below the record high of 142.4 billion gallons in 2007. So plenty of fuel is still being sold at stations across the nation.
The higher tax got some encouraging support from AAA and other groups that said motorists would favor it if they knew the money was going directly into upgrading U.S. roads.
The ultra-conservative Club for Growth quickly opposed the approach, saying that states should be in charge of funding their own infrastructure.
That idea should send shudders through drivers in Missouri, which clings to one of the lowest gasoline taxes in the nation, underfunding its road repairs, and is asking for a regressive three-quarter-cent sales tax increase this August.
A 12-cent increase in the federal gasoline tax would spread the burden to all drivers and produce revenue needed to invest in better roads in America.