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MGCCWDCC Logo By Bob Vitrikas

Gas Prices; a Taxing Issue

The other day I was reading the October 2017 edition of Car and Driver magazine and came across an article titled, “Infrastructure Rupture”. The focus was a statistical review of all 50 states regarding the size and condition of their highways, bridges and gas prices, or rather gas taxes. The assumption, not always correct, is that taxes on gasoline go toward road and bridge construction and maintenance. I usually find these data heavy graphic presentations a bit tedious to read through and comprehend, but this one looked pretty simple, so I lingered over the two page spread.

Every four years the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues a report card on our country’s infrastructure. No surprising, our infrastructure rated a D+ overall. Roads earned(?) an embarrassing D while bridges did only marginally better with a C+. The ASCE says there is a $2 trillion funding gap between current projects and what is actually needed for improving the state of our roads and bridges. Chris and I have done a lot of traveling on our roads and can attest that they are, to varying degrees, in need of serious attention. That said, we find that traveling in Pennsylvania is a constant hurry up and wait from one road construction project to another.

Road improvement is largely dependent on the federal tax on gasoline (18.4 cents/gallon) and diesel fuel (24.4 cents/gallon). These taxes have not been raised in 25 years. Maybe it’s time? Generally state taxes on gas exceed the federal tax but vary greatly from state to state. Here are some interesting facts I learned.

Highest state gasoline tax: The winner is ...Pennsylvania at a whopping 58.2 cents/gallon. Add in the federal tax and you pay a jaw dropping 76.6 cents/gallon in taxes. Lesson here is fill up in Virginia before traveling to or through PA. The tax in Virginia is a modest 22.4 cents/gallon. Just 12 states have a lower tax.

Lowest state gasoline tax: The winner is...oil rich Alaska with a tax of just 12.3 cents/gallon. Not very convenient but it you are traveling south to let’s say the Amelia Island Concours or the Sebring 12 Hour race in Florida, you might want to plan to stop in South Carolina which has the second lowest tax at a mere 16.8 cents/gallon.

State with the most miles of public road: Surprising to me, Utah tops the list with 313,596 miles of roads, only 10% of which are considered in to be in poor condition. That’s 117,762 miles more than second place California which has the dubious distinction of being…

State with the worst roads: California is second on the bad roads list with 50% of their 195,834 miles of public roads rated in poor condition, bested only by Connecticut with a whopping 57% considered in poor condition.

State with the most bridges: Surprising to me Texas has by far the most bridges of any state. Guess when you have the second largest land area there are a lot of bridges to link it all together. Texas can proudly boast that just 2% of their bridges are structurally deficient. That ties them with the dry bones state of Nevada which has only 1,933 bridges to care for.

State/district with the fewest bridges: No surprise here, the District of Columbia has just 245 bridges to maintain and they do a pretty good job with just 4% rated structurally deficient. The state with the lowest number of bridges is little Rhode Island with 772 bridges.

State with the worst bridges: Rhode Island doesn’t have many bridges to maintain but they need to up their game; 25% of them are structurally deficient. Tsk, tsk. Based on my travels this summer, no surprise that Pennsylvania comes a close second with 20% of their 22,791 bridges in desperate need of repair. Believe me, they are working on them! Just take a drive north on I-81 and you’ll see what I mean.

The bottom line is this. Taxes on gasoline account for about 18% of the price you pay. The price of crude oil foretells the end price at the pump since it accounts for about 51% of the cost. As we all know, the price of crude can vary greatly depending on a wide variety of factors including the weather. Did you notice how the price at the pump jumped about 25% after hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf’s off shore rigs and on-shore refineries? Refining accounts for about 23% of the cost of gas while getting the product to the pumps costs another 8%. The gas station, typically locally owned, only makes about 5 cents on a gallon of gas you put in your tank. Most of their profit comes from the other stuff they sell. Consider your local Sheetz station for example...

Here's an American Petroleum Institute map that shows combined local, state and federal gas taxes as of 1 April 2015.


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