The gas tank on the Federal Highway Trust Fund runs dry later this year. Yes, Congress continues to spend money it does not have for highways and the deficit in the Trust Fund—expenses over revenues of about $35 billion now runs over $10 billion. The Republican tax reform plan announced a week ago calls for $18 billion a year from the corporate profits tax for six years (Vermont’s share $36 million yearly) to shore up the Trust Fund and give this to everyone who drives a car “free.” Forget about most of 90% of all workers who travel to work by car get a “free” parking space or that 42% of total cost of highways capital and maintenance of our streets and highways comes from non-user revenues (property tax is the biggest source)--we just cannot subsidize the driver enough in this era if one ignores the lack of abundant petroleum resources, clean air and global warming, and the new-poor of suburbia.
THE NEW "WELFARE KINGS AND QUEENS" OF THE ROAD?
A penny-a-gallon gas tax raises about $1.3 billion so if the revenue needed per year for the next few years, $18 billion a year, came via the gas tax the current federal gas tax of 18 cents would increase by 14 cents without touching any of the other subsidies for car travel.
Actually part of the revenue problem stems from the fact that lots of folks—every age group—travel less by car today than in 2000, driver licensing rates of the young has declined, and in Vermont at least journey-to-work by car flatlined some time ago and walking, bicycling, and transiting to work grows by leaps and bounds. Vehicle miles of travel nationwide peaked in 2007 and have not returned to that level since—and New England states may very well go negative for vehicle miles this decade.
We really need to increase the rewards to those who walk, bike and transit around as these travelers do not draw down any where near the level of subsidy provided to those running around in their own private metal and composite boxes.
While our energy independent neighbor to the north uses high taxes to keep their price per gallon about $1 above ours and European nations gas pricing of $8-$9 result from gas taxes of several dollars (and they are oil dependent like the U.S.) one wonders when the U.S. will face up to the reality of car travel today—or at least begin to wean vehicle owners of subsidies we can no longer afford.