Surprise: Americans not keen on paying higher gas taxes

So much for the “crumbling infrastructure” argument, which is flawed in substance as well as style.   In a rare show of bipartisan consensus, Gallup’s latest poll shows that two-thirds of Americans would oppose increasing gas taxes — at the state level, explicitly — in order to fund infrastructure work:

Two-thirds of Americans would vote against a state law that would increase the gas tax by up to 20 cents a gallon, with the revenue going toward improving roads and bridges and building more mass transit. Three in 10 Americans would vote for an increase in the gas tax in their state.

These data are from an April 9-10 Gallup poll, conducted about two weeks after Maryland lawmakers passed the first such increase in the state’s gas tax in 20 years. The revenue from Maryland’s gas tax increase — which analysts predict will boost gas prices between 13 and 20 cents per gallon by mid-2016 — will help support infrastructure and mass-transit projects. At least 17 states — some of which are under Democratic and some under Republican control — have recently approved or are considering gas tax hikes or fee changes to help fund infrastructure and mass-transit projects and repairs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Gallup’s analysis shows that Democrats and Westerners are more likely to support those efforts, but that’s only in a relative sense.  Democrats oppose higher gas taxes by a 15-point margin, 40/55, and among Westerners, the gap grows to 19 points at 37/56.

And those are the two best demographics for tax-hikers. Seventy percent or more of those earning $24K-90K oppose the idea, which is smart, because gas-tax hikes are significantly regressive.  They eat up a higher percentage of disposable income for lower-end earners not just directly because of the price of gasoline, but also indirectly as transportation cost increases drive up the price of goods, especially produce.  In the Midwest and South, 72% oppose the idea of gas-tax increases.

Simply put, there isn’t a single demographic in favor of the idea, even when married to the idea that the funds will go to improvements in roads, bridges, and mass transportation systems.  That’s likely to put a serious crimp in any future plans at the federal level for tax hikes to pay for similar projects.

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