With the elections a little under two weeks away, a recent drop in oil prices and a current D+ report card in infrastructure, now is an opportune time for America to focus on transportation and infrastructure funding.
The Highway Trust Fund is not only crucial for funding roads, bridges and transit, but necessary for states to partner in funding transportation projects. Our country needs to invest $3.6 trillion to make the necessary improvements in our infrastructure by 2020 with a current budget forecast of $2 trillion that leaves a $1.6 trillion gap. So what is the connection between declining oil prices and the trillion dollar gap in federal funding?
According to USA Today, raising gas taxes while the prices are lower would be “the most painless way to begin addressing a problem that cannot be avoided much longer.” With gas prices down about 15 percent nationwide, Americans are paying an average of $3.14 a gallon, which is about 20 cents per gallon cheaper than this time last year. Despite legislators’ adversity to implementing a gas tax increase, the realization that we can pay now or pay more later is starting to be more widely recognized.
This year six legislatures, including Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin, have placed actions on the November ballot to increase spending on roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure. States like Texas are proposing to transfer a portion of the state’s oil and gas production tax revenues to the State Highway Fund.
Likewise in New Jersey, State Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox said, “Anyone who thinks we’re going to get this done without a tax is just mouthing”. Governor Chris Christie, initially opposed to raising a gas tax, has warmed up to the idea given the urgency of funding shortages.
Unless we increase the gas tax to match 2014 inflation, slightly raising the gas tax alone will not provide enough funds to build the roads and rails necessary to foster economic growth. While ASCE supports raising the gas tax as a significant measure to generate funding, we recognize that a variety of measures are needed to provide long-term, sustainable funding that will #FixtheTrustFund.