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Could Rise in Gas Tax for Better Roads Be Coming? Answer is Murky

When he was mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg certainly expended plenty of effort to keep the Midwestern Rust Belt city’s streets in order.

Now, with the power of the Transportation Department potentially at his hands, President Joe Biden’s nominee isn’t ruling out raising the gas tax to pay for road repairs on highways that receive federal assistance.

At his confirmation hearing, Buttigieg was asked by Utah Republican Mike Lee about the potential of increasing the federal gas tax, which has sat at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993.

“It’s possible — certainly many states have taken that step including my own — but it’s not the only approach,” Buttigieg said in response.

However, a spokesman later aimed to clarify Buttigieg’s remarks, saying: “A variety of options need to be on the table to ensure we can invest in our highways and create jobs, but increasing the gas tax is not among them.”

Both the federal government and individual states levy taxes on fuel and generally earmark the funds for infrastructure improvements. State fuel taxes make up the bulk of the difference paid per gallon at the pump. Pennsylvania charges 58.6 cents per gallon for unleaded, while oil-rich Alaska taxes just under 9 cents per gallon.

Adjusted for inflation, the federal gas tax goes about half as far as it did when it was enacted during the Clinton administration’s first tenure in Washington, D.C. Additionally, today’s cars average about 25 mpg, compared to about 20 mpg in 1993.

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