Gas Taxes Around the States
Raising enough money to take care of Missouri’s roads has been a challenge. As I’ve written before, the Missouri Department of Transportation estimates that $745 million of high-priority road and bridge projects go unfunded each year.
Missouri’s gas tax—MoDOT’s largest in-state funding source—has not been adjusted since 1996. Inflation, the rising costs of road maintenance, and increasing vehicle fuel economies have all lowered the value of the static gas tax over time.
However, many states have found ways to keep their gas taxes in line with changing times.
For instance, numerous states have indexed their gas taxes to inflation to keep gas tax levels in step with the rest of the economy. Some states index gas taxes to other metrics. For instance, North Carolina’s gas tax is indexed to account for changes in the state’s population, as well as for inflation. Nebraska’s gas tax adjusts based on a combination of the state transportation budget and a tax that varies based on the price of fuel. Georgia’s gas tax is indexed to vehicle fuel efficiency to keep up with auto industry advances. Other states apply the state sales tax to gasoline on top of a base cents-per-gallon rate, so that the total fuel tax revenue collected varies with the price of fuel.
In other states gas tax increases are revenue neutral, a point which is worthy of consideration, especially this year. South Carolina is in the process of increasing its fuel tax in two-cents-per-gallon increments over six years. However, residents can write off the extra gas taxes paid at the pump from their income taxes. This essentially restructures where the taxes go, as residents don’t necessarily pay more taxes, but more of the taxes they pay go toward transportation.
Lawmakers have already proposed measures to raise Missouri’s gas tax by 10 cents per gallon over five years in the new legislative session. And while gas taxes are not a perfect solution, as they do not always align road usage and damage to payment for their upkeep, they are one option. And as evidenced by other states, Missouri policymakers have options as to how to approach this problem.