Drivers this year are paying less than ever at the pump for upkeep of the nation's roads -- just $19 in gas taxes for every 1,000 miles driven, USA Today reported. That's a new low in inflation-adjusted dollars -- half of what drivers paid in 1975.
Americans spent just 46 cents on gas taxes for every $100 of income during First Quarter 2010, the newspaper found. That's the lowest rate since the government began keeping track in 1929. By comparison, Americans spent $1.18 in gas taxes out of every $100 earned in 1970.
During the first quarter of this year, motorists were on track to spend an estimated $56 billion on federal, state, and local gas taxes, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That's down from $69 billion in 2000 after adjusting for inflation -- even though Americans are driving more miles than they did a decade ago.
Two national transportation commissions chartered by Congress; the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; and numerous other transportation, business, and motorist organizations have urged the federal and state governments to increase gasoline and diesel taxes (among a menu of revenue-raising options) to provide greater investment in America's highways, bridges, and transit systems. (AASHTO's recommendations are available at tinyurl.com/AASHTO-revenue)
The Obama administration has expressed opposition to raising fuel taxes during an economic downturn, however, and Congress has yet to act on the commissions' recommendations.
A recent poll conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute found that public support for increasing transportation taxes can be strongly increased by linking revenue raisers to environmental benefits and by spreading an increase out over several years. (see July 2 AASHTO Journal story)