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The Tax Foundation is the nation’s leading independent tax policy nonprofit. Since 1937, our principled research, insightful analysis, and engaged experts have informed smarter tax policy at the federal, state, and global levels. For over 80 years, our goal has remained the same: to improve lives through tax policies that lead to greater economic growth and opportunity.
Gas taxes are typically used to fund infrastructure maintenance and new projects, but the share of state and local road spending that is covered by tolls, user fees, and taxes varies drastically. While politically unpopular, gas taxes, fees, and tolls are all relatively good applications of the benefit principle, the idea that taxpayers should benefit from the taxes and fees they pay. One of the primary issues, however, with both the federal and state gas tax is that they’re not indexed for inflation. As time goes on and inflation increases, the nominal value of the gas tax decreases, leaving states with budget shortfalls and unfunded infrastructure. States should attempt to fund infrastructure through user taxes and fees as much as possible, internalizing the costs associated with using the state’s transportation systems.
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