Americans split on fuel tax increase; Trump praises Oregon’s VMT tax

February 22, 2018

Tyson Fisher


Now that President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan has been revealed, the next question is “How do we pay for it?” A recent poll reveals Americans are evenly split on a fuel tax increase. Meanwhile, Trump praised Oregon’s mileage tax program in his economic report released on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University showed that, across all demographics, American voters are essentially at a stalemate when it comes to increasing the federal fuel tax. When asked if they think increasing the federal gas tax to pay for infrastructure was a good or bad idea, 46 percent said it is a good idea, 44 percent called it a bad idea and 10 percent said they did not know.

Accounting for political affiliation, the numbers were similar. Nearly half of Republicans, Democrats and independents think raising the gas tax is a good idea, according to the poll. Nearly half of both men and women reported the same.

Is there a generation gap when it comes to thoughts on fuel tax increases? Not at all. Again, nearly half of every age group (18-34, 35-49, 50-64 and 65+) find fuel tax increases to be a good idea.

Support of a fuel tax increase has actually waned since May 2017, when Quinnipiac last asked the question. Back then 51 percent thought it was a good idea as opposed to 41 percent who thought it was a bad idea. Since then, slightly more have shifted to a negative opinion, nearly balancing public opinion regarding fuel taxes.

According to its website, the independent Quinnipiac University Poll regularly surveys residents in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and nationwide about political races, state and national elections, and issues of public concern, such as schools, taxes, transportation, municipal services and the environment.

Although President Trump has tossed around the idea of a 25-cent fuel tax increase as recently as last week, he has also recently given Oregon a pat on the back for its mileage tax pilot program, OReGO, declaring the state “has long been a pioneer when it comes to transportation funding.”

In the Economic Report of the President released on Wednesday, the White House referred to Oregon’s OReGO program when addressing funding and financing needed for infrastructure. The report called OReGO says “tangible evidence that a tax on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is a promising alternative to relying on fuel taxes.”

It is still not clear which direction the White House or Congress may take when it comes to infrastructure funding. During a White House news conference last week, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said that Trump “has not declared anything out of bounds, so everything is on the table.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association believes the fuel tax is the most equitable way to generate revenue.