As the nation’s highways crumble, some way has to be found to repair them but the hitch is that everyone hates taxes. However, a recent study has found some people might be willing to pay higher taxes for road projects under certain circumstances.
A taxing problem
The highway system of the United States is falling into disrepair. Roads are funded through taxes and few things are more detested. The traditional funding, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, is through an 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gas, which was last raised in 1993.
A study has found, though, that some might be willing to pony up higher taxes, according to AutoGuide, for road maintenance, albeit under the right circumstances.
Right road maintenance taxes for right reasons
The Mineta Transportation Institute, part of San Jose State University, has conducted a survey, polling 1,519 people about their attitudes toward taxes for road maintenance. The survey found people were willing to pay more in some circumstances, but less so than others.
A 10 cent per gallon tax hike to “improve road maintenance” was supported by 58 percent of respondents, but only 20 percent supported a similar tax hike for maintenance and improvement. Sales taxes were more favorable for transportation purposes, as fewer supported gas taxes or “mileage taxes,” surcharges on less fuel-efficient vehicles than sales taxes.
The survey also found that respondents’ willingness to pay additional taxes depended on what the tax was funding and how it was worded. How the tax was put to use was also found to matter, as was how the tax was implemented. A tax increase spread over several years was considered more favorable than an immediately implementation of the full tax. The survey, according to MarketWatch, was done over a three year period and attitudes did not change over time.
Asphalt partially at fault
There are a number of reasons why the federal government, as well as state and municipal governments, can’t keep up with highway repairs. More people are driving over the roads, incurring more damage. Legislators are also loathe to increase taxes.
Furthermore, the price of asphalt is pegged to the price of oil, as asphalt is a mixture of bitumen, a petroleum distillate, and cement. The cost of oil has been pushing the cost of asphalt up in recent years. The New York Times reported in June 2008 that the price of asphalt had gone up 5 percent since April of that year alone, 10 percent in the previous year, and had doubled since 2005.
The Wall Street Journal reported in July 2010 that many rural counties couldn’t afford the high cost of asphalt, which had more than double since 2000, with falling tax revenues and were simply letting rural roads revert to gravel or ripping asphalt up and laying gravel, which is one-quarter the cost.
New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/29Rasphalt.html?ref=asphalt
Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704913304575370950363737746.html