While gas prices have steadily increased on average over the past two decades, one portion of that price has not changed--the gas tax. The federal and state gas taxes have not been raised since 1993, but now comes a call for the politically unpopular move. Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Fox News this week that raising the gas tax is necessary in order to keep up with the cost of building and maintaining roads. LaHood says without new revenues, the National Highway Trust Fund will face a shortfall starting next year, and that money will have to be made up by taking from the general revenue fund. LaHood's comments are backed up by a report from the Congressional Budget Office that says "the current trajectory of the Highway Trust Fund is unsustainable."
The issue is especially vexing for Houstonians, who routinely complain about our city's decaying roads but aren't sure if paying more for gas is the best way to fix them. "I would not want to pay higher gas, because it's just too expensive as it is," said one woman who spoke to KTRH. But another woman said, "if it is going to improve our roads, I have to say I'm probably more for it." A man agreed with that, saying, "If it's not too high, I say yes (to raising the gas tax), because the roads here are pretty bad, pretty brutal." Still, another woman told KTRH she isn't sure. "What are our current taxes, and where is that money going--that's what I want to know first," she said.
Terri Hall with the group Texans United for Reform and Freedom (TURF) understands the need for a better revenue stream for roads and infrastructure, but she wants to see existing money spent more wisely before raising any taxes. "There is still money out there that could be used to fix the problem that (lawmakers) have been raiding by directing our road funds to other things," says Hall. She points out past amendments in Texas that allocated gas taxes to things like public education. Still, she says a modest increase in the gas tax is much cheaper per-mile than the alternative--toll roads-- as long as it is spent strictly and wisely. "We want to make sure there are restrictions put on any new revenues, that they can't be used for toll roads...if they're going to build a road with our money, it should be a free road."