The Campaign Spot

Obama and a Reason Foundation Veep Disagree on Gas Tax Hikes . . . For Now

You know what Americans could really use right now? Much higher gas taxes.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A 50 percent increase in gasoline and diesel fuel taxes is being urged by a federal commission to finance highway construction and repair until the government devises another way for motorists to pay for using public roads.

The National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing, a 15-member panel created by Congress, is the second group in a year to call for higher fuel taxes.

With motorists driving less and buying less fuel, the current 18.4 cents a gallon gas tax and 24.4 cents a gallon diesel tax fail to raise enough to keep pace with the cost of road, bridge and transit programs.

In a report expected in late January, members of the infrastructure financing commission say they will urge Congress to raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon and the diesel fuel tax by 12 to 15 cents a gallon. At the same time, the commission will recommend tying the fuel tax rates to inflation.

The commission will also recommend that states raise their fuel taxes and make greater use of toll roads and fees for rush-hour driving.

In a sign we have entered Bizarro-world, the AP article notes “President-elect Barack Obama has expressed concern about raising gas taxes in the current economic climate” while quoting Adrian Moore, vice president of the libertarian Reason Foundation, as saying the gas tax hikes are necessary.

Also, apparently building support is entirely a matter of labeling:

Charles Whittington, chairman of the American Trucking Associations, which supports a fuel tax increase as long as the money goes to highway projects, said Congress may decide to disguise a fuel tax hike as a surcharge to combat climate change . . .

“Instead of calling it a gas tax, call it a carbon tax,” Whittington said. “As long as we label it as something else we may have the momentum and acceptance to move forward.”

Really? Are motorists really thinking, “There’s no way in hell I’m paying another ten cents in a gas taxes to those fatcats voting themselves pay raises — oh, wait? What? It’s a carbon tax? Oh, okay then, as long as it’s helping the polar bears . . .”

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