Commentary: Fuel taxes should be raised

This editorial appeared in The Rock Hill Herald.

A federal infrastructure panel is the latest organization to recommend an increase in gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. Now is a good time, for a variety of reasons, to consider raising the tax.

The National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing, a 15-member panel created by Congress, argues that raising the fuel tax is the best and fairest way to pay for necessary road, bridge and transit programs until government can find another way for motorists to pay for using public roads. The group will urge Congress to raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon, to raise the diesel fuel tax by 12 to 15 cents a gallon and to tie the rates thereafter to inflation.

The current 18.4-cent gas tax and 24.4-cent diesel tax have not been raised since 1993. Many are reluctant to raise taxes of any kind during the current economic climate. And few favored a fuel tax increase when gas was selling for nearly $4 a gallon.

Prices in recent months have dropped substantially. And, with government poised to spend hundreds of billions on infrastructure projects as part of a national stimulus plan, increasing revenues by way of a higher fuel tax makes sense.

The commission notes that the gap between revenues and the investment needed to improve highway and transit systems was about $105 billion in 2007 and will increase to $134 billion in 2017 under current trends. And bad roads exact their own costs.

The commission estimates that traffic congestion wastes an estimated 2.9 billion gallons of fuel a year. Bottlenecks around the nation cost the trucking industry about 243 million lost truck hours and about $7.8 billion a year, according to the commission.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Rock Hill Herald.

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