Should Congress Raise the Gas Tax to Fund the Highway Trust Fund?

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The Federal Gasoline Tax was first introduced in 1932 and was assessed at one cent per gallon. It was extended and increased several times in the next two decades to help the U.S. government meet its financial obligations, including the costs of World War II and the Korean War. President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which provided the basis for the construction of the interstate highway system. This act raised the gas tax to three cents per gallon and all of the money was dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund. This fund is the primary source of funding for federal road construction and maintenance.

To keep up with an expanding population and increasing transportation needs, the tax was raised several times over the following decades. At times portions of the tax have also been used for other government needs, including deficit reduction. The most recent increase in the gas tax was signed by President Clinton as a part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993. This act increased the federal gas tax to 18.4 cents per gallon. Since 1997, the full amount of the Federal Gasoline Tax has gone to the Highway Trust Fund. This tax has not been raised since 1993.

During the summer of 2014, gas prices began a period of decline nationwide. Virtually every state recorded a decrease in price of at least $1 per gallon by the end of 2014. Many states nationwide are reporting their lowest gas prices in six years, with gas selling for less than $2 per gallon in many states. This dramatic decline in gas prices and the dwindling resources of the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to run out of money in 2015, have sparked debate over whether now is the time to raise the gax tax.