Investing in infrastructure with a gas tax: Lessons from California

The gas tax, at the federal level, funds new infrastructure — such as roads, bridges, and rail — and is critical for addressing the devastating consequences of our cars’ carbon on the environment. The problem is that this tax is not pegged to inflation, and Congress, who has had no political will to raise the gas tax since 1993, has failed to use that power. So, in an act of political courage, states across the country are raising their own gas tax to fund infrastructure and climate resilience projects.

While advocates for the tax are labeled “tax and spend liberals,” the reality is quite the opposite: I support the gas tax because it makes sense from a market economy point of view. The true cost of driving is not only the cost of car plus gas, but also the wear and tear on roads, costs of alleviating congestion, funding climate resilience, and other costly externalities of driving. The gas tax builds those costs into driving now, rather than burdening future generations with the consequences of our poor planning. It’s the true cost of the driving market.