Do Driving States Subsidize Walking States?

May 18, 2005

All states chip in to fund federal roads with an 18.4-cent federal gas tax. But some states get a much better deal from their tax dollars than others, and some states and their U.S. representatives are upset about it:

Twenty states collectively paid $1.8 billion more into a national highway fund than they got back for road and bridge projects in 2003, according to the most recent federal data available.

Now these states and their U.S. representatives want to … write language into a transportation money bill currently creeping through Congress that would require states to get back 92 percent to 95 percent of the federal gas taxes they collect.

How much is at stake? A lot. For example in 2003 Texas paid $288.5 million more in federal gas taxes than it got back in road construction, while Alaska received $281.8 million more than it paid into the system.

Here’s a table showing how states fared in the give-and-take of federal highway dollars in 2003:

Federal Gasoline Taxes Paid vs. Highway Spending Received, FY 2003

State

Gas Taxes Paid

Road Spending Received

Spending Received Per Dollar of Tax Paid

Indiana $820,355 $659,684 $0.80
Arizona $576,955 $485,738 $0.84
Florida $1,551,004 $1,347,246 $0.87
Georgia $1,137,122 $1,002,786 $0.88
Texas $2,576,091 $2,287,543 $0.89
North Carolina $887,793 $791,108 $0.89
Ohio $1,099,634 $983,401 $0.89
Tennessee $713,388 $640,382 $0.90
California $2,980,123 $2,679,828 $0.90
Michigan $963,480 $875,358 $0.91
South Carolina $521,977 $475,236 $0.91
Utah $249,767 $230,716 $0.92
Oklahoma $488,085 $451,191 $0.92
Colorado $410,877 $382,607 $0.93
New Jersey $840,634 $802,972 $0.96
Illinois $983,408 $945,800 $0.96
Louisiana $484,437 $470,639 $0.97
Mississippi $388,306 $378,559 $0.97
Maine $152,806 $149,940 $0.98
Missouri $691,481 $681,025 $0.98
Massachusetts $533,120 $531,612 $1.00
Nevada $206,533 $210,136 $1.02
Kentucky $531,524 $548,675 $1.03
Minnesota $435,020 $449,931 $1.03
Washington $527,772 $546,263 $1.04
Nebraska $214,331 $222,713 $1.04
Oregon $338,407 $358,720 $1.06
Alabama $550,028 $592,424 $1.08
Kansas $306,319 $330,706 $1.08
New Hampshire $134,115 $145,642 $1.09
Iowa $321,792 $349,636 $1.09
New Mexico $251,758 $286,384 $1.14
Arkansas $374,442 $429,022 $1.15
Maryland $521,067 $605,101 $1.16
Pennsylvania $1,158,945 $1,392,021 $1.20
Virginia $815,808 $1,005,746 $1.23
Wisconsin $499,833 $623,615 $1.25
New York $1,223,902 $1,615,540 $1.32
Connecticut $305,528 $422,798 $1.38
Idaho $159,348 $227,195 $1.43
Wyoming $136,737 $205,256 $1.50
Delaware $79,323 $129,087 $1.63
Hawaii $76,662 $138,256 $1.80
Vermont $69,072 $129,596 $1.88
West Virginia $191,160 $376,896 $1.97
North Dakota $88,718 $194,023 $2.19
Montana $128,682 $282,286 $2.19
South Dakota $96,331 $212,422 $2.21
Rhode Island $74,209 $183,975 $2.48
Dist. of Col. $28,927 $99,661 $3.45
Alaska $64,553 $346,434 $5.37
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.

Update: Reader Benjamin Monreal writes with the following interesting comment:

“You might have titled the post ‘Do warm, sunny states subsidize the cost of frost heaves?’ New York, Alaska, and Montana need extra money to maintain a minumum level of driveability on their ice-ravaged roads. Texans and Californians can lay cheap concrete slab roads that last for 20 years.

“To see whether this is real, I eyeballed USDA plant hardiness zones to use as a climate estimator. There’s a strong correlation, r=-0.3, between the gas tax imbalance and the USDA zone. r=-0.17 for the 40 median states. I won’t pretend that an 0.3 correlation explains the whole issue, but it illustrates the silliness of demanding ‘equal spending’ relative to gasoline taxes.”


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