U.S. Gas Taxes About to Expire: Get Ready for Congress's Next Meltdown


Photo credit: Kevin Cole via Flickr/CC BY

Oh good. The gas tax -- the small fee that imposed on consumers of gas when they fill up their tanks is about to expire. Our gas taxes are already much, much smaller than almost all of the rest of the developed world. But not to worry. I'm sure that the eminently reasonable Tea Party will recognize that the gas tax helps pay for the infrastructure and road repairs that allows us to drive in the first place, and intelligently vote to extend it.

Not. Here's Politico's Ben Smith:

Looking beyond the horizon of the current insoluble legislative meltdown, a nervous Democrat pointed me yesterday to the next one: Most of the gas tax is set to expire on Sept. 30.

An accountant's memo lists the taxes expiring that day, including:

-- All but 4.3 cents-per-gallon of the taxes on highway gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, and alternative fuels (Secs. 4041(a) and 4081(d)(1))
-- Reduced rate of tax on partially exempt methanol or ethanol fuel (Sec. 4041(m))
-- Tax on retail sale of heavy highway vehicles (Sec. 4051(c))
-- Tax on heavy truck tires (Sec. 4071(d))
-- Annual use tax on heavy highway vehicles (Sec. 4481(f))

The House, no doubt, will view renewal as utterly routine, right ...?

It's not hard to anticipate what a nightmare this will quickly devolve into: With gas prices still high, calls from Tea Partiers (and then the GOP establishment, which gets yanked around in whichever direction its feisty, undomesticated pet wants to go) will no doubt sweep the nation to let the gas tax expire.

Needless to say, this would be disastrous. Cars aren't much use without decent roads to drive on, after all. And lower taxes would, of course, encourage more fuel consumption. If anything, at this juncture, we should be raising gas taxes (and using some of the revenue to provide good mass transit for those most impacted by the hikes). Higher taxes on gas have spurred more sustainable development and less pollution-intensive lifestyles in places like Europe and Japan.

But that's just a fantasy. Instead of actually debating the merits of and importance of our meager gas tax, get ready for another noisy, irrational meltdown. It's coming.

More on the Gas Tax
Let's Raise the Gas Tax by $1: GM CEO
Americans Pay Less Gas Taxes Now Than Any Time Since 1975

Tags: Congress | United States

Best of TreeHugger