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Higher fuel tax may be price for less fuel consumption

As the price of gasoline per gallon soared into the $4 and $5 range last summer, Americans tightened their belts. They drove less, purchased more fuel-efficient cars and took advantage of public transit systems. We were told in order to get the price of gas to drop, we had to decease demand.
The result was the cost of oil dropping to levels not seen in eight years.
Then, last week, it was announced that because motorists were purchasing less gasoline, the federal government was receiving less revenue from fuel taxes, which help fund the cost of roads, bridges and other transportation avenues. In order to make up for the shortfall, the National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing told Congress that there should be an increase on the 18.4 cents a gallon federal tax on gasoline and 24.4 cents a gallon tax on diesel.
The commission also recommended that states raise their fuel taxes and make greater use of toll roads and fees for rush-hour driving. The tax ‘ estimated to be as much as 40 cents a gallon ‘ would be phased in over five years.
As bad as we think taxes are, they are undoubtedly a necessity in this country. The government can’t provide the services we rely on without them.
But once we reach the summer months and the driving season is upon us, the fear that $4 and $5 per gallon gas will become $5 gas ‘ and worse ‘ will likely result in Americans driving even less, then the tax revenue will go down (again), which means taxes will have to be raised (again).
It’s a destructive path that will virtually assure this country will stay in a recession.
Instead of a knee-jerk reaction like a 40 cents per gallon increase, the NCSTIF should keep taxes where they are. Inevitably the same folks responsible for last summer’s record fuel costs will do the same type of speculating this summer. If the NCSTIF doesn’t like the lower revenue from taxes from 2008, just imagine if motorists were being forced to pay $5 and $6 a gallon for gasoline. Can you say horse and buggy?
We don’t have an answer to recover a shortfall of about $105 billion between revenues and the investments needed to improve highway systems in 2009, but surely there’s a better way than to milk motorists at the pump again.
One idea the financing commission came up with is to equip every car and truck with a device that uses global positioning satellites to record how many miles a vehicle has been driven, the types of roads and the time of day those roads were used. Motorists would be taxed depending on how much they use roads.
Far fetched? Maybe, but it’s better than the alternative.