• Aug 9, 2010
It takes one of two things for a politician to support a hike in the gas tax: courage or no interest in a political future. Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) has at least one of these aspects and made his case for a bigger gas tax in a letter to members of President Obama's debt commission:
A multiyear transportation bill that is paid for would be a real economic stimulus and create immediate jobs. The Transportation Department estimates that for every $1 billion the federal government invests in highways and bridges, 34,800 jobs are created or maintained. Highway projects worth more than $47 billion are ready to go, according to state departments of transportation. ...

We do not need to borrow money for the transportation bill. We can pay for it by increasing the gas tax. ... The gas tax is a user fee, and just a few cents could help create jobs, improve our infrastructure and better the climate. ...

Reagan knew America was in dire straits and fought hard for a gas tax increase once he realized the effect it would have on the economy. It was a tough pill for his conservative colleagues to swallow. But, in the end, Congress passed the much-needed Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, which provided a 5-cent gas tax increase and created hundreds of thousands of jobs. History speaks for itself.

Today, groups that don't traditionally back tax increases - among them, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Trucking Association - have come out in support of a gas tax increase because of this reauthorization bill's ability to put Americans back to work.
Whether Voinovich is courageous is up to you to decide, but it is a fact that he's retiring, so take that for what it's worth. To be fair, he's been pushing for a higher gas tax since at least April. Also, for the record, the federal gas tax is just 18.4 cents a gallon.

We've taken out part of Voinovich's letter where he names the year when the federal gas tax was last increased because, like we did before, we want to see if our readers know when the tax was last raised. You can take our poll and then read Voinovich's entire letter after the jump.



[Source: The Hill]

PRESS RELEASE

THE ROAD TO JOBS BY: SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH


August 4, 2010 04:38 AM EDT

Congress narrowly approved yet another unemployment insurance extension, but my colleagues on the other side of the aisle continue to miss the forest for the trees.

Instilling certainty into the economy by providing relief to the unemployed is important. But creating sustainable jobs is where this debate should be focused.

Over the past two years, our nation borrowed $123 billion to pay for unemployment insurance extensions, our national debt increased by almost $4 trillion, and Democrats passed a $2 trillion health care bill and a stimulus bill now estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to cost $860 billion. In spite of all this spending, people are asking, "Where are the jobs?"

Most Americans would rather have a job than collect unemployment insurance. Let's stop kicking the can down the road and work together on creating jobs - particularly since the answer actually lies on that road - by passing a robust surface transportation reauthorization bill.

A multiyear transportation bill that is paid for would be a real economic stimulus and create immediate jobs. The Transportation Department estimates that for every $1 billion the federal government invests in highways and bridges, 34,800 jobs are created or maintained. Highway projects worth more than $47 billion are ready to go, according to state departments of transportation.

But President Barack Obama is doing nothing to get these projects off the ground. This year, 21 states have indicated that they are likely to be forced to reduce transportation investments because of Washington's inaction.

The transportation construction industry supports more than 3 million jobs. Just think about the massive impact this industry has on employment in the U.S. It provides more domestic jobs than both U.S. motor vehicle and parts manufacturers and petroleum and coal products manufacturers. The infrastructure built, maintained and managed by this industry is the backbone of our economy.

Unfortunately, this sector is in its worst condition since World War II. The unemployment rate in construction is a staggering 20 percent - higher than for any other industry and two times the national unemployment rate of 9.5 percent.

Recently, Tom Foss, representing the Associated General Contractors of America, got at the root of the problem. Our "failure to pass a multiyear transportation bill creates significant market uncertainty," Foss said, in testifying before the Senate. "The uncertainty makes it difficult to hold onto valued employees. It makes it hard to convince subcontractors to work for us. And it makes it hard to convince lenders to invest in us."

A robust new highway bill is a three-fer. It is good for jobs and for an industry that is struggling, good for our competitive position in the global marketplace and good for our environment - traffic congestion, for example, contributes almost 30 percent to our greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, construction is an economic stimulus we can afford at a time when we are borrowing more than 41 cents of every dollar we spend.

We do not need to borrow money for the transportation bill. We can pay for it by increasing the gas tax, which has not risen since 1993. The gas tax is a user fee, and just a few cents could help create jobs, improve our infrastructure and better the climate.

As President Ronald Reagan said in 1982, when the nation was facing record unemployment above 10 percent, "Good tax policy decrees that, wherever possible, a fee for a service should be assessed against those who directly benefit from that service."

Reagan knew America was in dire straits and fought hard for a gas tax increase once he realized the effect it would have on the economy. It was a tough pill for his conservative colleagues to swallow. But, in the end, Congress passed the much-needed Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, which provided a 5-cent gas tax increase and created hundreds of thousands of jobs. History speaks for itself.

Today, groups that don't traditionally back tax increases - among them, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Trucking Association - have come out in support of a gas tax increase because of this reauthorization bill's ability to put Americans back to work.

But we are still waiting to hear from the most important player: Obama. He is on the stump talking about creating jobs, but he's in a bunker when it comes to a reauthorization of the surface transportation bill. We are working full-bore to get a bipartisan bill done this year. The House has been working on reauthorization for 2½ years.

I cannot understand how the president can ignore this issue at a time when unemployment continues to grow and we have a proven job creator at our fingertips.

Show me another bill that has bipartisan support from labor, manufacturing, business, the trucking industry and state and local groups. Show me another bill that will create real jobs for Americans, will be paid for and will bring certainty to a major part of the economy without adding to an already staggering deficit.

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) is ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee and serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee
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  • 64 Comments
      • 6 Days Ago
      A republican pushing for a gas tax is particularly shocking right now. Lol.
        • 6 Days Ago
        @polo

        you say that a gas tax will hit the poor the most, then you say you support removing subsidies on the oil companies.

        you are aware that any increased costs that the oil companies incur will be directly passed on to the people purchasing their products, i.e. fuel, just to name something they are notable for.

        yeah, it will trickle down to the average person no matter where the tax is set.

        besides, do you think that the people who can't afford to drive fancy cars can afford to drive cars that get bad gas mileage? just because a car is old doesn't mean it automatically has poor gas mileage. I'd even be willing to wager that poor people drive more efficient cars and have shorter distances to travel to and from work than middle and high income groups.
        • 6 Days Ago
        If raising gas tax by 5 cents puts thousands of American back to work, let's raise it by an additional 95 cents to put millions of American back to work. While we're at it, lets raise the income tax to 75% so that every able American can get a job, courtesy of the Federal government. As a matter of fact, let the government take over all private wealth so that government can reallocate it for maximum job creation.

        Let's hear it for fraternity, equality, and liberty. To each according to his need. To each according to his ability.

        • 6 Days Ago
        I believe Reagan did it, tax gas, after his tax cuts was adding to the national deficits.

        It's just that most conservatives simple don't recall Reagan raising tax at all nor Bush Senior for some reason...."Read my lips..."


        • 6 Days Ago
        Not really. It's reverse psychology to keep any Democrat from using the current bad feeling towards the oil industry for their political benefit.

        No Dem can now touch the idea of gas tax increase lest they be accused of positioning themselves "to the right." This effectively takes that issue off the table for Dems.
        • 6 Days Ago
        The poor can take public transportation, bicycle, ride share, move, motorcycle/scoot, ETC. I did it when i was younger and can still do it. I see people in their 80's doing it.. cars may be nice and comfy, but let's be realistic, we survived without them for a very long time and we are simply running out of oil. We need less desperate drilling and that means *serious* conservation.

        Poor(ish) people make up what.. 70% of our population. They certainly make an impact if they are taxed. Unfortunately it is the rich with their 15mpg luxo-barges that need to be punished more than most, but that's just my personal opinion ;)
        • 6 Days Ago
        It is shocking. Not up for re election, that is why. Anyone running for elections will not advocate this. Obama would be sound in judgement to wait on this and see if he can't get elected for a second term and implement it. Reagan was immensly popular when he suggested it. Obama is not high in the opinion polls right now so it would not be a good time to tackle this, for him or his party.
        • 6 Days Ago
        Token Tax, just like with reagan the massive amounts of debt added by the republican tax cuts for the rich would barely be dented by anything but the most draconean gas tax increase.
        • 6 Days Ago
        "yeah, it will trickle down to the average person"

        Ah, the old trickle down effect. Another failed concept championed by those with a habit for creating economic disasters. It will just lower the profitability of their exploration operations.
        • 6 Days Ago
        "No Dem can now touch the idea of gas tax increase lest they be accused of positioning themselves "to the right." This effectively takes that issue off the table for Dems."

        A gas tax is already "to the right". Its a regressive tax that hits those who can least afford it.

        "No Dem can now touch the idea of gas tax increase lest they be accused of positioning themselves "to the right.""

        According to Fauxnews & Dow Jones its the DEMOCRATS pushing raise oil taxes...because their plan would affect the manufacturers like Exxon and Shell.


        Long-Simmering Push To Raise Oil Taxes Builds In Congress

        By Siobhan Hughes
        Published August 06, 2010
        WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- A longstanding Democratic push to raise taxes on oil and gas companies is gaining momentum, with the U.S. Senate setting up the possibility of voting in mid-September on taking away $12 billion in tax breaks from the industry.

        Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) has sponsored the energy-tax measure, which is very likely to come up for a vote next month as part of a deal to break an impasse on small-business legislation. The vote will test the degree to which the oil and gas industry has become a target for deficit-conscious lawmakers following the spill from BP PLC's (BP, BP.LN) Macondo oil well.

        "There's a certain inevitability when you have a funding gap that oil is going to get squeezed," said Kevin Book, a managing director at ClearView Energy Partners LLC. "Macondo changed sentiment significantly."

        If approved and put into law, Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Chevron Corp. (CVX), ConocoPhillips (COP), Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) and BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) would be disqualified from receiving tax breaks for domestic manufacturing. The tax breaks were put into law in 2004, when Republicans controlled Congress. Repealing their eligibility for the tax deductions is estimated to cost the five oil companies $12.2 billion over 10 years, according to a Senate Democratic aide.

        "It's vindictive," said Stephen Comstock, manager of tax policy at the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group for oil and gas companies. "This is targeting five companies that do operate in the United States. Yes they have generated profits and even profits in the United States, but they use them to employ people in the United States and pay dividends and buy back stock and return that money to the economy."

        "Republicans don't think it's a good idea to raise taxes and cause people's gas prices to go up," said a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.)
        http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2010/08/06/long-simmering-push-raise-oil-taxes-builds-congress/

        Apparently rethuglicans are only opposed to raising taxes if they affect their rich donors or corporate masters, the small people be damned.
        • 6 Days Ago
        chin sounds very, VERY dumb
      • 6 Days Ago
      I'd just get rid of the tax system we have in place right now...and the IRS with it.

      NRST (National Retail Sales Tax) is the way to go. then when you get you paycheck...you will actually get the whole thing! Shocker!
        • 6 Days Ago
        It would be just like buying a car across state lines now. Once you title it, you pay the tax on it. Driving to Canada and Mexico isn't an issue, you can't bring a non US car in anyway, and if you've ever brought gear into the US, you know you better have documentation for it, or Customs will levy a duty. We already have this problem solved.
        • 6 Days Ago
        "The rich buy more, hence get taxed more."

        Who says they do? I know some very wealthy people who just hoard their money and try to avoid spending any of it.

        Also, the point you are missing is that even if rich people do purchase more, they purchase considerably less as a percentage of their overall income. This would be a tax on poor people and a gigantic tax break for the rich.

        However, I agree with you that the tax system is complicated and would welcome any simplifications to the tax filing process.
        • 6 Days Ago
        @spec

        the VAT in Eurolandia is in addition to income taxes that everyone has to pay anyway.
        • 6 Days Ago
        Murc, are you really so stupid? Do you really have to ask why a wealthy person should pay more tax than a poor one?

        The rich pay more in taxes to support civil society because they benefit more from the existence of civil society.

        Who has the most to lose if the police decide not to enforce any laws tomorrow?

        Those living with the most luxury, that's who. You reap the most rewards, it's fair you pay the most.
        • 6 Days Ago
        So you are advocating a European style VAT?
        • 6 Days Ago
        I am with Murc on this.

        The IRS alone already costs billions to operate (to print trillions of complex forms and be a pain in the a... to millions of people). Its a huge waste full of bureaucrats.

        Get rid of them and form a consumer tax to replace it.
        • 6 Days Ago
        Not foolproof. I'll give you a hint: rich people have jets and other forms of travel, poor do not.. :)
        • 6 Days Ago
        @polo - you didn't answer my question to you...Why do you think the rich should pay more in taxes then everyone else?

        What are you talking about? It wouldn't place ANY more of a burden on the middle class then it would with the lower class or upper class. Its percentage based, which is the only fair way to tax the people.
        • 6 Days Ago
        Replacing the current system with a "consumer tax" would place take the tax burden off the shoulders of the upper class, and place it right on the shoulders of the middle class. Thats not gonna happen because the middle class in this country is crashing and will continue to decline. Even the conservadumbs wouldn't attempt that unless they knew a complete collapse was coming and they wanted to line their pockets before they jumped town.
        • 6 Days Ago
        @Jon - I'm talking about the majority when I said "the rich spend more". which they do. I dont see broke people with a benz and a yacht.

        Would taxes go down for the rich...yup.
        would taxes go down for the middle class...yup.
        would taxes go down for the poor.......yes & no. the amount they pay for taxes would go down. but under a NRST they wouldn't be getting a giant check from the government like they do now. boohoo, no more handouts.

        the US tax system is a joke, and it has given the government a great deal of power, power that we the people have to take away.

        @ polo - wow...you sound Nancy Pelosi or some other left wing nut job.
        I have a big problem in how people think the rich should be taxed more then them...why? seriously, I want you to explain to me why it is that they should pay more then you.
        • 6 Days Ago
        So, why not drive to Canada for your groceries, cars, furniture, etc? Border cities would suffer quite a lot, not unlike towns on the Alabama side of the Alabama/Florida border. I know plenty of people that drive to FL to make grocery runs because FL has exemptions for food, and AL does not. If that happens with a relatively minor purchase, imagine how many car dealers, etc. would be just across the Canadian (and possibly Mexican?) border. I'm not a Macroeconomics professor or anything, but it seems like sales in the US would be hurt.
        • 6 Days Ago
        Boo. A retail tax would hit the middle class and the poorest the hardest. Those who don't even make enough to qualify for income tax (and are below the poverty line) would now have a portion of their income taken out. The richest would have even less of their income subject to taxation. Thats what we need, new taxes on those below the poverty line and less taxes for those who just took in $700Billion thanks to Bush's taxcut.
        • 6 Days Ago
        @ Michael - I'm not talking dollars, I'm talking percentages.

        Are you seriously trying to justify the reason the rich should pay more then their fair share in taxes, is because without their money our civilization would crumble?!?!?

        and you call me stupid?...
        • 6 Days Ago
        @Spec - no, I'm saying a consumer tax. every retail that you buy will have a hefty tax on it (23%). If you buy nothing, you dont get taxed.

        The rich buy more, hence get taxed more. Its a truly fair tax. well, actually its even called the "FairTax", but the only thing I dont like about the FairTax is the dumb pre-bate.

        costs to the consumer wouldn't go up, since everything you buy is inflated appx 23% right now, because of all the hidden taxes involved that went into making the item you bought, to getting it to the store shelve.

        If you buy something, your taxed on it...its that simple. No tax code, no IRS, no back taxes, no tax cheats, no federal withholding, April 15th becomes a normal day again.
      • 6 Days Ago
      This all started because of greed and the GOP sleeping with the enemy. Mind you, there Democrats sleeping with them too. All GREED!
      Come on America. We can do better than this. We have some the smartest people in the world here in the USA and we can come up with positive solutions to these systemic problems. MONEY is the root of all evil. Truly. We have to start taking care of each other and NOW.
      • 6 Days Ago
      My plan would increase gas tax $0.05 annually for the next 20 years. Need someway to get us off the drug of foreign oil, and this measure certainly would slow american's purchase of gas hog SUV's while allowing people that own them (jeep wrangler in my garage) to continue using them through useful life without getting hammered.
        • 6 Days Ago
        So your plan is to cut into consumer spending and reduce the buying power of the middle and lower class over the next 20 years? Those who drive less, buy less. Not a winning formula in a consumer driven economy, where prices are near $3 a gallon in a deep recession.

        Stronger regulations & mandates, with generous subsidies for consumers and manufacturers would accomplish that goal without the economic collateral damage tax advocates conveniently ignore
        • 6 Days Ago
        if it's done right consumer spending wouldn't be hurt... that's why it phases in so slowly. if people stop buying SUV's and buy something more fuel efficient the next time they are due to buy a car (maybe every 10 years), then they can naturally just evolve to more fuel efficient cars. This will drive demand for more fuel efficient cars to automakers without mandates, subsidies and things you suggest. In those cases government is picking winners and it's too much micro management our economy.

        (PS, how would these subsidies be paid for that you suggest? At some point we need to pay for programs!!)

        My gas tax program not only steers the market gently towards fuel efficient cars, and steers us away from oil, but the tax also pays for construction projects for our aging infrastructure which sorely needs to be maintained. roads, bridges. My tax also could pay to upgrade our electric grid and other infrastructure projects the country needs. This pays for many many jobs! The stimulus (unpaid for) also focused on creating construction jobs. I'm creating jobs and paying for them too! China has huge focus on infrastructure investment. I think the US has neglected our infrastructure too long.
        • 6 Days Ago
        "if it's done right consumer spending wouldn't be hurt... that's why it phases in so slowly"

        Whats the point of what you're suggesting? How are you going to make gas so expensive people will demand alternative vehicles...and it doesn't affect their pocketbook? If the transition is so slow and measily then how can you even expect a change in consumer buying habits? Your logic doesn't make sense. If you're going to change consumer habits across a wide base of the population - by raising the price of gas - then obviously it has to be highly disruptive to their personal financial circumstances or they will not even notice and their will be no change. Their is no way you can raise prices to the point people change their buying habits - and yet consumer spending is unaffected.
      • 6 Days Ago
      I'm impressed someone would support the gas tax (which I am all for). I'm not as impressed (or surprised) that a legislator is blaming the president for the budget, especially for budget supervised by a committee this legislator is a ranking member of. It's no wonder so little gets done sometimes when the legislative branch waits for the executive branch to legislate. Hey Voinovich, how about *doing* something about it instead of just whining for others to do it? You'll have plenty of time to do that with the rest of us once your term is up.
      • 6 Days Ago
      The federal fuel tax has not been raised since 1993. Meanwhile inflation has gone up along with the average gas mileage of cars. Our roads are in bad shape, costing Americans much more than a few cents a gallon on repair bills caused by pot holes and stop and go traffic. Not to mention, the hours that are wasted in traffic congestion. This is a fix we needed ten years ago.
        • 6 Days Ago
        And less SUVs. more weight on the road = more wear and tear.
      • 6 Days Ago
      Taxing gas makes a lot more sense than mandating fuel economy requirements. You can insist that the car companies need to make 35mpg cars, whether people actually want them or not, or you can shift the price of gas such that people will actually have a reason to move to more efficient cars, and at the same time add a source of revenue that can fund projects and create jobs.
        • 6 Days Ago
        Yes it does. And the politicians know that. But they also know that a gas tax is political suicide whereas the raising CAFE standards is easier to do. So they opt for the stupid route because we (voters) will not let the do the right thing.
      • 6 Days Ago
      A politician suggested raising the gas tax??!?! I'm stunned!

      Wait . . . it was a Republican?!?! *Head explodes*



      Seriously though . . . nice to see someone acting like an adult. Of course, it takes a retiring politician to do it.
      • 6 Days Ago
      Finally - A Republican I can support and provides a rational argument regarding taxes and our infrastructure!

      Do it!
      • 6 Days Ago
      What I would like to see is all 50 states agree to a single standard diesel and gasoline tax while the federal government increases ever so slightly the fuel tax and MORE IMPORTANTLY fences off the money so that NO ONE can use the funds for anything other than highway.
        • 6 Days Ago
        Federal road and highway spending has far exceeded gas tax revenues for decades. You don't have to worry about gas tax revenue being diverted because income tax revenue is being diverted to pay for the shortfall in roads and highways.
      • 6 Days Ago
      So Reagan increased the gas tax. Good luck trying to get Palin and the Tea-baggers to believe that. They'll refuse to believe it because it doesn't match the myth they have.
        • 6 Days Ago
        Myths? You mean like EV's being "green" -- never mind the fact 75% of the USA electric grid runs on fossil fuels?
        • 6 Days Ago
        Yes, you give us another myth from the luddites. No one says EVs are responsible for no emissions. But the emissions from EVs ARE LESS THAN gas cars. Even when an EV is power 100% by coal generated electricity, it emits less CO2 than a gas car when you consider the entire well to wheels chain. How is this true? Because electric motors are close to 90% efficient whereas gas motors are less than 20% efficient. Plus there are lots of emissions in the drilling, transporting, and refining of oil.
      • 6 Days Ago
      If this was done slowly (say 50 cents over 10 years) and then fixed to an annual COL adjustment, it would generate significant revenue that could be put into infrastructure improvements, research, fund tax credits for EVs, etc. And people aren't going to notice it. We're already somewhat used to $3 gas and $4+ gas is definitely going to be back. As a percent, the current 18.4 cent tax is about 1/3 what it was 10 years ago.

      If we want "free" roads, something's got to pay for them.
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