Last week The Hill had an interesting article about support for an increase in the gas tax (Poll: Most Americans back 10-cent gas hike). From the article:
Seventy-one percent of U.S. residents would support a 10-cent increase in the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax that is used to pay for federal transportation projects, according to a new poll released this week.
That's a pretty overwhelming mandate, so you might suspect that the organization releasing the poll -- the Mineta Transportation Institute -- is pushing propaganda as part of the Infrastructure Cult. While they are funded by the USDOT and CalTrans (two organizations largely funded by the gas tax), their results undermines many of the Cult's standard approach.
Again, from the article:
Support for increasing the gas tax to 28 cents-per-gallon drops to 31 percent if the money is used to "maintain and improve the transportation system" instead of "improve road maintenance," according to the group.
That's a pretty clumsily written sentence so let me restate it: Americans generally support (71%) a 10 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax for maintenance, but when expansion is included, people oppose the tax increase by about the same margin (69%).
This should not surprise anyone. There is a fraction of Americans who reflexively oppose any tax increase and a similar fraction of Americans that reflexively support any tax increase where they sense a need. That 40% in the middle point the way to a rational approach: fix what we have before we even think of building more.
What is perhaps most interesting to me is the notion of a 10 cent increase. While that might be politically doable, particularly if some superficial and non-binding language on fix-it-first can be included, it's not a serious number if we're actually trying to maintain what we've already built.