The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline this week is $2.30, about the same as the average price for a gallon in 2005. Certainly, fluctuations have occurred in the 16 years since, topped by the prices in 2012, when gas cost more than $3.60 per gallon.
Take away the period of instability eight or nine years ago and gas prices – especially after adjusting for inflation – really are just as affordable, or even more so, than they were 15 years ago.
So as the North Dakota Legislature considers adding a few extra pennies to the tax we pay on a gallon of gas, keep an open mind for what it really could do for the state while not putting a serious dent in the general public’s pocketbook.
The House Finance and Taxation Committee on Monday voted 9-5 to push forward House Bill 1464, which would move the state’s gas tax fee from 23 cents per gallon of gas or diesel to 29 cents. It’s a 26% increase, but it would come after the state’s gas tax hasn’t been raised in more than 20 years. Rep. Vicky Steiner, R-Dickinson, is the prime sponsor of the bill. She introduced it along with Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby; and Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot; and Sen. Curt Kreun, R-Grand Forks.
The last effort to raise the tax, in 2019, failed. But many conversations about infrastructure have occurred in the past two years, including proposals to use earnings from the Legacy Fund to help taxing entities – counties, cities and the like – fund infrastructure improvements.
According to reporting by Forum News Service, Steiner said the state’s ailing roads and bridges will be mended one way or another, and by raising the gas tax, it means not all of the necessary funding will have to come out of the Legacy Fund.
Using Legacy earnings in the form of loans to help pay for projects is a good plan. Raising the gas tax is too, since it’s probably the most fair way to pay for improvements on roads and bridges.
The people who purchase gas are the ones who are using the state’s roads and bridges. People who don’t drive aren’t adding to the wear-and-tear on the infrastructure. It’s as simple as that.
Owners of electric vehicles – obviously are part of the future and which will add to the strain on infrastructure – will pay, too. HB 1464 also would increase fees paid by owners of electric vehicles, further adding to the fund.
Meanwhile, the federal gas tax remains 18.4 cents per gallon – the same rate since 1993. As federal and state gas taxes remain constant, the roads and bridges in the nation and state continue to decay. It’s a growing problem, and without a viable option to fix it.
President Joe Biden’s unfortunate anti-oil executive orders notwithstanding, gas prices are – at least for now – steady and lower than they were years ago. Now is the time to move on a gas tax increase to help pay for infrastructure that will, without doubt, continue to decay.
HB 1464 is a strategy to fix the problem. The time has come.