Federal Gas Tax Expires On September 30th

By James Baxter, NMA President

It won’t be long and the grandstanding will start up in earnest. Nothing focuses the political mind like the potential loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenue.

Come the end of September, and with it the expiration of the 18.4 cent fuel tax, we will be thoroughly warned that the end is nigh if the federal gas tax goes the way of the dodo bird.

The “Chamber” types will decry the collapsing infrastructure. The “greens” will demand the replacement of highways with bicycle trails. Municipalities will plead for more millions in subsidies to support their transit systems (that average one passenger per vehicle mile travelled), and we’ll get a good dose of “bridge to nowhere” stories.

The one tenuous thread of agreement is that none of the principal political entities will suggest that the gas tax be increased. The Republican and the Democrat Members of Congress, and the President will all join hands to give a fat thumbs down to raising the gas tax.

Maybe we should just put these political actors out of their misery and let the tax expire. Armageddon? I don’t think so. Some angst, a bit of disruption, a lot of hand wringing about the economy, probably. But let’s look at the bright side.

First, all 50 states could add 18.4 cents to their fuel taxes and there would be zero change in the tax paid by motorists. Better yet the states could keep 100 percent of the tax and not cycle it through Washington, D.C. where it is currently feeds a significant bureaucracy and is laden with a raft of regulations before it is returned to the states, in a diminished capacity.

Further, if the California Legislature wishes to outlaw circumcision while in a moving vehicle it can do so without dragging the other 49 states down the same path via a Lautenberg sponsored federal mandate.

Other than a little disruption and an upward blip in the unemployment rate in Virginia and Maryland where’s the downside?

The US DOT Secretary won’t be able to hold “listening sessions” where he harangues about cell phone usage and promotes “livable communities?” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration won’t have money to support large scale speed traps, seat belt roadblocks, or surveillance cameras on every street light? And, federal highway funds won’t be available to fund ticket camera programs? I’m willing to suffer these consequences.

How about you?

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