Gas prices have plummeted in the past five months to lows no one — expert nor everyday driver — thought they would see again. This has led to talk of a new or heavily increased gas tax by both federal and several state governments. The heaviest hitter now joining the long-ignored call for a higher fuel tax is The New York Times editorial page.
With states trying to plug holes in their budgets — currently large enough to drive an SUV through — raising the gas tax is seen as a partial solution that could help push the U.S. toward a more realistic energy future.
California and Michigan both have proposals moving through their state legislatures to raise the gas tax. Michigan wants to replace a 19 cent per gallon gas tax and a 15 cent diesel tax with an 18% tax on the wholesale prices of both fuels. Currently, California, Illinois and Massachusetts have the highest gas taxes.
One thing’s for sure: Historic summer gas prices, followed by an economic crisis, have combined to change America’s driving habits, maybe for good. Transportation and road infrastructure repairs are mostly paid for by taxing fuel. The gap in tax revenue caused by drivers leaving the road will have to be filled somehow.