Increasingly fuel-efficient cars putting gas tax, road funding at risk [w/poll]

The fund that the United States uses for the maintenance of its roads is increasingly falling short, and one of the main reasons is the more efficient cars we drive today. As fuel economy improves, the amount raised by the nation's gas taxes falls, and it is those taxes that pay for much of the highway upkeep in the country. That leaves the question of how we continue to maintain the roads.

The answers are hugely varied and generally come up first from the states. Just increasing the federal or states gas taxes to make up for the shortfall is obviously one option, but raising taxes is a huge no-no politically, which is leading to other solutions. San Francisco leaders proposed a per-mile charge for vehicles, and Virginia considered eliminating its fuel tax entirely in favor of a higher sales tax and a $100 fee for hybrids and EVs. The federal plan supported by the Obama administration would close a tax loophole on businesses and allow states to charge tolls on more roads.

This budget shortfall has been looming for years, though. One estimate in 2011 calculated that the fund to repair roads would lose $65 billion from 2017-2025 given the higher CAFE standards and decreasing fuel use, and another from 2012 figured it at $57 billion from 2012-2022. On the federal level, the US Highway Trust Fund could run out of money by August.

One seemingly universal quality in all of these plans is their unpopularity. According to The Boston Globe, Massachusetts raised its state gas tax last year to 24 cents per gallon, the state's first increase in 20 years. The rate continues to rise to match inflation, but a repeal of these hikes is on the November ballot. A group of Californians is also fighting against that state's proposed fuel tax increase in 2015. They claim it's a secret cost to consumers and would also increase the prices of goods by raising shipping costs, according to CSP Net.

What do you think? This is obviously a complicated issue, but the country must maintain its roads somehow. Has the gas tax run its course, meaning there needs to be a new way to fund the roads, or should we simply raise it? Let us know in the poll below and in Comments.

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