From Florida PIRG:
A new report released today by the Florida Public Interest Research Group disproves the common misperception that road-building is paid for by user fees, showing that gas taxes cover barely half the costs of building and maintaining roads, a fraction which is likely to fall steadily.
Among the findings of the report:
· Federal gasoline taxes were originally intended for debt relief, not roads.
· Highways, roads, and streets have received more than $600 billion in subsidies over the last 63 years in excess of the amount raised through gasoline taxes.
· The amount of money a particular driver pays in gasoline taxes bears little relationship to his or her use of roads funded by gas taxes. Drivers pay gasoline taxes for the miles they drive on local streets and roads, even though those proceeds are typically used to pay for state and federal highways.
“Florida needs to make difficult choices about how to fund our state’s troubled transportation system. The first task is to discard common myths about how roads are paid for,” said Patrick Gittard at Florida PIRG.
This year Congress again addresses funding for the nation’s Highway Trust Fund, which has been bailed out four times with $35 billion from general funds since 2008. Federal gas taxes have not increased since 1993 and revenues are expected to remain flat as Americans continue to drive less and use more fuel-efficient cars.
“The myth is that public transportation is somehow subsidized by taxpayers while roads are magically not. This excellent report by PIRG clearly shows that road building requires subsidies,” commented Wes Watson, Director of the Florida Public Transportation Association. “Roads and bridges are a vital part of our nation’s infrastructure and must be maintained. However, it is important not to forget that public transportation provides at least equal, or better, overall return on taxpayer investment than road building. And if predictions of $5 per gallon gasoline by the end of 2012 come true, our nations’ transit systems will be called on to bear an even greater load of our transportation needs.”
Proposed changes to federal transportation funding regarding the Highway Trust Fund stirred up disputes from the new Republican leadership and the traditional highway establishment. The keystone of their arguments, however, wraps around treating the gas tax as user fees.
“Highway advocates often wrongly portray highway spending as financially conservative by falsely portraying gas taxes as “user fees” that pay for roads. It simply isn’t true,” said Patrick Gittard. “Funding programs based on myths perpetuates waste and isn’t based on what is needed most.”