Gas Tax, Tolls to Fund State Transportation?

Virginia's gas tax is a flat rate tax, but leaders are beginning to explore other options.

Next year’s holiday road trips may be a little more expensive as Virginia officials grapple with how to adequately fund Virginia’s growing transportation infrastructure needs.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said earlier this month that raising Virginia’s gas tax, tying it to inflation or otherwise adjusting it are all options on the table.

“I’m looking at a range of things,” McDonnell told reporters. “I can tell you that every other major tax in Virginia—the sales tax, the corporate income tax, and the [personal] income tax—all fluctuate with economic activity because they’re a percentage ... We’re looking at whether or not ... it should fluctuate with economic activity, like every other tax in Virginia.”

Right now, Virginia’s state gas tax is set at a flat rate of 17.5 cents per gallon (not including any federal tax). When gasoline prices go up, Virginia does not see any additional revenue—in fact, Virginia sometimes sees a little bit less revenue when commuters cut back on driving due to high prices. 

In the District and in Maryland, the gas tax is 23.5 cents per gallon plus federal tax, also a flat rate. In late 2011, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley proposed applying the state’s sales tax of 6 percent to gasoline purchases, but the proposal didn’t pass.

Ninety-two percent of respondents to a Quinnipiac University poll of Virginia registered voters agreed it is “very important” or “somewhat important” to improve the state’s roads and highways.

Quinnipiac surveyed close to 1,500 registered voters across Virginia in early November.

According to the survey:

  • Voters oppose 57 - 38 percent putting tolls on parts of Interstate 95 in the Commonwealth to pay for road repairs.
  • Given a choice, however, between tolls or a higher gas tax, voters prefer tolls 56 - 32 percent.

The margin of error in the survey was +/- 2.6 percentage points.

Would you prefer more tolls on local highways or would you rather have a gas tax to pay for transportation infrastructure? Tell us in the comments box below!


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