A 568% Gas Tax Increase?
Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins is thinking big. Really big. He’s planning to introduce a bill that would spend $1.25 trillion over five years on roads, bridges, transit systems, airports and water systems. Trillion with a T. That’s $250 billion a year, slightly less than what House Republicans want to spend on surface transportation over five years. It’s three times more than the Obama administration’s latest highway/transit proposal.
But Higgins didn’t pull the numbers out of thin air — ASCE has estimated that much is needed to improve transportation infrastructure. “Why would you shortchange what needs to be done? Why would you reach lower?” he said when asked if members might get sticker shock from the high price tag. “The debate that’s going on right now is a race to the bottom,” he told MT in an interview.
As Alex Marshall noted in Bloomberg, “asking a bunch of civil engineers about public-works spending is like asking the barber if you need a haircut.”
That said, let’s play along! How high would the federal gas tax need to be to pay for Congressman Higgins’ plan?
A quick, back of the envelope calculation gives us a starting point: about $1.23 per gallon. The current gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, so the Higgins Plan would require a 568% increase. It would also raise the current average price of gas from $3.915 to $4.961 per gallon.
Raise your hand if you want $5 per gallon gas.