Road Taxes Are Rising

Gina Deveney
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Road taxes across the United States are rising as a lack of federal funding forces states to raise taxes to pay for the maintenance of roads and bridges. Since the beginning of 2013, a quarter of all states have either raised taxes or implemented fees or fines to meet the costs of road maintenance.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, state governments need to increase their spending by approximately 50 percent to pay for all the work that needs to be done to maintain the nation's transportation infrastructure. Meanwhile, federal funding for transportation is falling, which leaves states looking to raise the extra money through increased road taxes.

In the past, state fuel taxes have brought in significant amounts of revenue. However, with more Americans driving fuel-efficient vehicles or even opting for electric or hybrid cars, states can no longer rely on this source of income to keep roads in good repair.

Even tax-averse states such as Missouri are implementing new taxes to pay for transportation infrastructure. Missouri's annual highway budget is due to fall from $1.3 billion to just $325 million by 2017. To make up the shortfall, Missouri legislators have proposed a sales tax to raise money for the state's aging roads. The tax still needs to be approved by voters, who have been targeted by a $4 million campaign to persuade them to vote through the measure. Both Republicans and Democrats are supporting the proposed tax hike.

Other states are struggling to raise road taxes in the face of strong voter opposition. Even though two-thirds of the road network in Michigan is likely to fall into disrepair by 2020, voters in the Great Lake State recently rejected a proposed increase in road taxes. Similarly, voters in nine out of 12 transportation districts in Georgia refused to accept tax hikes designed to fund road maintenance. Voters in Seattle also rejected a similar measure.

However, plenty of states have successfully raised road taxes to bolster their waning transportation budgets. Maryland, Massachusetts and Virgina voters all allowed funding measures to pass. Pennsylvania, which often ranks as the state with the nation's worst roads in a survey of truck drivers, also raised taxes in an attempt to shake off that title. The Governor of New Hampshire, Democrat Maggie Hassan, recently signed a fuel tax hike of 4 cents per gallon into law, marking the first increase in fuel tax in the state since 1991. Wyoming took a similar measure last year, increasing tax by 10 cents per gallon from the previous rate.

In response to falling revenue from federal sources, states are raising road taxes and fuel taxes to pay for the upkeep of their roads and bridges. Although tax hikes are often unpopular with voters, the urgent need to invest more money in transportation infrastructure is causing road taxes to rise across the nation.

Photo courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at


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