Just Say No: Increase in Gas Tax Would Fuel More Congestion, Reward Bad Policy

The Center joined a national coalition of policy organizations in the letter below which will be sent to Congress next week.

Given the terrible congestion in the metro area, and the pot holes in our roads, some might argue that raising the gas tax is a good idea. At the very least, we ought to consider it right?

The problem with that seemingly reasonable approach is the policies that gave us terrible congestion would not change with more gas tax money; more gas tax money would just “fuel” those bad policies.

Not to mention, Congress just passed tax relief for Americans; an increase in the gas tax is an especially regressive tax on low and middle-income Americans. This would take back some of that relief—and make Minnesotans pay more at the pump for the privilege of sitting in traffic.




Here is the summary from the Center’s recent report on Congestion:

Twin Cities traffic congestion is no accident. There is no reason why the Twin Cities metro area, with a rather modest population and located on a prairie where there are no significant obstacles to building adequate highways, should be one of the most congested urban areas in America. The problem isn’t topography, or inadequate funding, or fate. The problem is that the responsible government agencies are not trying to reduce road congestion. Indeed, it often appears that they welcome congestion, because impossible driving conditions will force Twin Cities residents out of their cars onto trains, buses and bicycles, where MNDot and the Met Council want them.

Public pressure on our legislature, our governor and the responsible state agencies is needed to produce a transportation policy that meets the needs of the people of Minnesota.

So long as transportation policies favor light rail and bike paths over a serious plan for roads and smart bus transit, we say no to raising the gas tax.

You can review the Center’s report. Twin Cities Congestion: It’s No Accident, here. Here is the coalition to Congress:

On behalf of our organizations and the millions of Americans we represent across all 50 states, we write to express our opposition to raising the federal gas tax. Federal policy should concentrate first on the many impediments to a more efficient, effective, and user-accountable transportation network.

Raising the gas tax is a bad idea. It will make the burden of government on families and businesses heavier. A higher gas tax means higher prices not just on gas, but on goods and services throughout the economy. These costs would inevitably be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices, resulting in a regressive tax hike on those who can least afford it.

We applaud the landmark tax reform bill recently approved by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. Millions of families and small businesses will benefit from these pro-growth tax cuts after years of slow economic growth and stagnant wages. Undermining the impact of this long overdue and badly needed tax relief by raising the federal gas tax would be counterproductive and misguided – hitting less affluent Americans and those living on fixed incomes the hardest.

Rather than seeking to increase prices at the pump in the form of a tax hike, lawmakers should first reform the way existing transportation dollars are spent. 

Too often, highway funds are diverted to non-highway projects, a problem that worsens with each passing year. This non-highway spending shortchanges motorists, and undermines the user-pays principle.

In addition, labor mandates and byzantine planning and analysis requirements can needlessly delay the completion of transportation projects and contribute to increased costs. Modernizing these burdensome planning requirements and sweeping away cost-boosting labor restrictions would stretch existing dollars further.

Before asking Americans to pay more for a tank of gas, Congress should pursue common-sense reforms that properly prioritize federal transportation infrastructure needs, reduce costly and time-consuming bureaucratic hurdles, and ensure that tax dollars are spent on roads and bridges, not frittered away on unrelated pet projects, red tape and paperwork.  


[Photo from Street.MN]