Gas Tax 101: 1932 – 2013

(Photo: naterade81 / Flickr)(Photo: naterade81 / Flickr)

We talk gas tax all day long in this industry.

We hear arguments that it should increase (I make many of them) or that it should remain where it is (largely because it would be political suicide to raise it).

But this Forbes piece is a short, succinct summary of the Federal gas tax from its first day on the job: June 11, 1932.

There’s a lot of value in this article for all of us who argue the gas tax. Knowing the circumstances of its inception and all of the changes made to it are invaluable tools in making a case that this is one of those times when the federal fuel tax needs to go up.

Nothing helps an argument as much as being able to put it into context and then being able to fight counter-arguments with facts and some logical thinking based on those facts.

The story also gives you–if you read between the lines–a broad idea of how politics drives such changes. Certainly it shows you that right now we are in a time that is comparable to the times other changes took place in terms of urgency or just plain need. But you could also take away the thought that it’s only the political will to push it and the circumstances any proposed hike runs into in Congress that determines win/lose. The country’s needs can easily appear to be incidental.

Also, I’m going to suggest that you forward this to your local news outlets. You’ll find the city desk or assignment desk on their website. Transportation reporters are usually generalists, and when it comes the fuel tax arguments I’m fairly certain most of them won’t know the background in detail. Help make them more aware and I think you’ll find them increasingly able to do a better job of understanding our industry’s arguments.