Being a grown up: Gas tax edition

April 17, 2019

“You can’t get something for nothing.” This is the core reality facing us here in Michigan in regard to our roads (and all public infrastructure and services, but that’s another blog…)

 

If we want to get around our cities and our state without feeling like we’re off-roading, we’re going to have to pony up. It’s not fun and it will even hurt many of us financially, but here’s thing thing – that’s true of the status quo. These crummy roads are not fun either, and are hurting us financially as it is – not just the major repairs, but the wear-and-tear on our vehicles comes at an enormous cost.

 

The attractive thing about a gas tax is that it is a use tax as well as a sin tax. Both are widely known to be effective in terms of raising revenue while also impacting behavior. The science is clear that burning gasoline burdens our health significantly, adding to the grim local and global effects of drilling, refineries (ask the folks in southwest Detroit about the costs of refining petroleum), transport and combustion.

 

Some people (fairly) argue that overweight trucks should pay more since they do more damage to the roads. Here’s a cool fact: an overweight truck also consumes a huge amount of gas, so they would indeed pay more with a higher gas tax!

 

Here’s another benefit of a gas tax: Michigan has some very unfortunate land use patterns and suffers enormously from sprawl. Higher gas prices create the right incentives for people to choose to live closer to work and spend less time on the road, encouraging the density we desperately need to have more vibrant cities that attract millennials and professionals.

 

The truth is that Americans have long been addicted to cheap gas, and it hurts our physical and mental health, fostering inefficient, isolated, unsustainable lifestyles. Gov. Whitmer’s proposal nudges us in a healthier, more efficient direction and, most importantly, gets us closer to decent, drivable roads!

 

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