By Dave Fidlin | Watchdog.org
A nonprofit organization recently put out an open call to Pennsylvania lawmakers and implored them to steer clear of a proposed increase in the federal gas tax.
President Donald Trump has called for a 25-cent-per-gallon increase in the federal gas tax. He and other proponents cite the plan as one that would help fund infrastructure improvements. They also point out the current federal gas tax of 18.4-cents-per-gallon has not been raised since 1993.
But in Pennsylvania, where the state gas tax of 58.7-cents-per-gallon is the highest in the nation, the federal hike, coupled with the state’s rate, could lead to dire consequences for residents across the commonwealth, according to the conservative-leaning group Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania.
If the 25-cent-per-gallon federal hike is eventually implemented, based on current state figures, Pennsylvanians could face combined gas taxes of $1.02 per gallon. The current combined rate in 2019 sits at 77.1-cents-per-gallon.
The Pennsylvania chapter of AFP recently released a report outlining each state’s tax burden, based on the federal proposal. Pennsylvanians’ burden stood at $240 per year, according to the organization’s analysis.
AFP-PA Deputy State Director Anna McCauslin said the impact of a federal hike would be felt beyond the proverbial pain at the gas pump.
Increased gas taxes have a ripple effect, McCauslin said, and can have an impact on consumers in a number of everyday purchases made at traditional brick-and-mortar stores and online because of the reliance transportation plays in shipping items.
“Products are going to be more expensive,” McCauslin said. “That goes for something you buy through Amazon Prime or when you go to the store to buy groceries.”
The Pennsylvania chapter of the AFP also is calling on federal lawmakers to consider the impact the increased gas tax could have on lower income residents.
“Adding a tax of 25-cents-per-gallon is going to hit them more than it will members of Congress,” McCauslin said. “I think that’s what we really should be focusing on.”
Road conditions remain a chronic problem – not just in Pennsylvania, but in other areas of the U.S. In its most recent report card, trade organization American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation a grade of D+ for the quality of roadways. Pennsylvania notched slightly above the national average, with a grade of C-.
When asked about the role gas taxes play in improving roads and other critical infrastructure, McCauslin said the AFP-PA has been advocating since 2013 for lawmakers in Harrisburg to look at how projects are funded.
“We really should make sure we’re smarter with these projects,” McCauslin said. “We can make better use of our money.”
She said the organization advocates for overhauling how regional permitting processes are handled as one example.
According to the American Petroleum Institute’s 2019 state-by-state analysis of gas tax rates across the U.S., the average per-gallon tax this year is 52.18-cents-per gallon, meaning Pennsylvania’s combined rate of 77.1-cents-per gallon is 24.92-cents-per-gallon higher.