WA’s gas tax near all-time low

[NWPT54]Since 1940, Washington state’s gas tax has risen more than fivefold, from 5 cents a gallon to 28 cents a gallon… and yet, adjusted for inflation, the per-gallon value of the tax has actually fallen almost in half. Indeed, even when the recently enacted 9.5 cent a gallon increase is fully implemented in 2009, the effective tax rate in real dollars will still be below historically average levels.

Gas Tax, 1940 - 2009

The chart above tracks the gas tax from 1940 though 2009. The orange line represents the nominal gas tax in actual dollars (well… cents.) The blue line represents the gas tax adjusted to 2005 dollars, using the Gross Domestic Product Deflator historical data included in the US budget. (The GDP Deflator is estimated for 2004 through 2009.)

Because the gas tax is levied as a fixed dollar-value per gallon, rather than as a percentage of the sale price, the value of the tax is gradually eaten away by inflation unless the tax is periodically increased… which is exactly what the Legislature has routinely done since the tax was first implemented in 1921. Indeed, one of the reasons the recent round of tax hikes seems so shocking, is that the Legislature failed to raise the tax from 1991 through 2002, allowing real revenues per gallon to fall near an all-time low. It is no wonder that during that time, maintainance was deferred, and our transportation infrastructure was allowed to slip into its current state of gradual decay.

If we want to have a real debate about the transportation bill and the initiative to repeal it, then we’re going to have to start with some real numbers.

Comments

  1. 1

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    I wonder, was this because we caved into the oil industry and decided that indexing the gas tax to inflation was a bad idea because it would hurt buisness and industry’s ability to compete?

    I personally think, to pay for road improvements, that tolls would be a better idea.

  2. 2

    righton spews:

    goldy; why not post sum of all taxes. If gas tax was only tax we paid, few would be as opposed.

    I recall 1920 or so max income tax was 1% and i’ll bet sum of all taxes, tariffs fees was much less in any terms than today

    of course we didn’t have a quasi socialistic economy back then..

  3. 3

    ConservativeFirst spews:

    Goldy sez:

    “If we want to have a real debate about the transportation bill and the initiative to repeal it, then we’re going to have to start with some real numbers.”

    Adjusting the gas tax rate for inflation doesn’t take into account increased consumption. From 1940 to 2000 the population of Washington State has more than tripled (1,736,191 to 5,894,143). With a change of over 1 million coming between 1990 and 2000 alone.

    In a press release this week the state OFM is estimating the state population, as of 4/1/2005, to be 6,256,400. Or, 3.6 times the population of 1940.

    In addition we’ve become much more reliant on fuel for personal transportation and delivery of goods.

    If you want to try and debate the “fairness” of the current gas tax increases in a historical context, I think a better measure would be the total amount of gas tax revenue collected by the state, in real terms.

    I was unable to find any historical gas tax revenue numbers(even non adjusted) anywhere. If someone has access to them, it would be most informative.

  4. 4

    Goldy spews:

    Conservative @3,

    The gas tax works like a user fee, and as such, somewhat tracks drivers impact on our roads, bridges and ferries. The more people drive, the more they use the roads, requiring new infrastructure and increasing wear on the existing infrastructure. Likewise, heavier vehicles like trucks, which consume more gas per mile, as cause more wear per mile.

    Furthermore, if you’ve ever played SimCity, you’ll understand that as you expand your infrastructure, your annual costs of maintaining it go up to. We have a helluva lot more roads now than we did in 1921 or 1940 or even 1960, when the gas tax was much higher in real dollars.

    So while I freely admit that it’s not as simple as one-to-one ratio, for the most gross gas tax revenues is not a useful number because it doesn’t take into account increasing demands.

  5. 5

    klake spews:

    goldy; why not post sum of all taxes. If gas tax was only tax we paid, few would be as opposed.

    I recall 1920 or so max income tax was 1% and i’ll bet sum of all taxes, tariffs fees was much less in any terms than today

    of course we didn’t have a quasi socialistic economy back then..

    Comment by righton— 6/30/05 @ 7:30 am

    Righton I remember when gas was 5 cents a gallon and the Tax was 3 cents in New York, but we didn’t have all these hiden taxs of today. The Country was also a Republic not a Socialist Democratic and paying for goverment Services that the majority of use don’t use.

  6. 6

    Seeking the truth spews:

    This is not a fair assesment. You fail to take into account the other taxes taken in that are supposed to pay for roads. In 1940 there was no federal taxes levied on fuel, tires, oils etc… Those tax revenues are used now to bribe states into complying with federal regulations.

    The problem is this state has passed many “emergency temporary gas taxes” over the years. Those taxes somehow never get spent to fix the emergencies and never get repealed.

    In 1932 a state income tax was created by initiative. In 1934 it was overturned by the state supreme court. The legislature created an emergency tax on gross receipts (sales tax) to balance the budget. In 1935 it was made permanent in a massive tax plan.

    This sales tax was to replace property taxes.

    Our legislature is like a tick feeding on blood. They will not stop taxing until they are stopped. If we don’t put our foot down now then when should we?

  7. 8

    ConservativeFirst spews:

    Goldy@4

    “Likewise, heavier vehicles like trucks, which consume more gas per mile, as cause more wear per mile.”

    And trucks pay additional taxes that car drivers don’t, which I believe were also increased by the legislature in the transportaion bill.

    “gross gas tax revenues is not a useful number because it doesn’t take into account increasing demands.”

    We are talking about the money collected not how the money collected is spent, so real gross tax revenue is quite relevant, and is still a better measure of the burden on the taxpayers than the rate. We can use gross revenue to measure the per capita burden on each person by dividing gross revenue by the population. Total drivers would provide an even more acurate picture but I don’t have that number.

    You seem to be arguing that real rate measures fairness. If so, then you must be saying that in 1940 the gas tax is the fairest since you used that for your baseline. Why did you choose this year? How come you didn’t use 1921 for your baseline? The gas tax was 1 cent, which would be about 9 cents now in real terms. How about 1976 when the gas tax was 9 cents? That would be about 3 cents in real terms. The current 28 cent (approved in 2003) is approximately 3 and 10 times those amounts in real terms.

    It appears to me you are curve fitting to justify your argument.

    I think how the money spent is a completely different debate topic, something that certainly would be even more relevant after I-912 either qualifies for the ballot, or fails to.

  8. 9

    ronin spews:

    Where does the money collected now go? We already pay one of the highest gas taxes in the nation and we have one of the worst road infrastructures. How does this happen? 30 years of neglect is how. To make matters worse, this transportation package does nothing to improve — it’s just for maintenance. I would glady pay more tax if it was going to make an improvement in traffic congestion. Furthermore, how the money will be spent is only an intention at this time. There are no guarantees that it will be used for the viaduct, floating bridge, et. al.

  9. 10

    ConservativeFirst spews:

    ConservativeFirst@7

    Oops my bad, 1976 would actually be comparable to the current tax, since in real terms it would be about 31 cents but sill less than what the gas tax will be after the 9.5 cent increase.

    I’m still curious why you chose 1940 over other years.

  10. 11

    dj spews:

    ConservativeFirst @ 7

    ”We are talking about the money collected not how the money collected is spent, so real gross tax revenue is quite relevant, and is still a better measure of the burden on the taxpayers than the rate. We can use gross revenue to measure the per capita burden on each person by dividing gross revenue by the population. Total drivers would provide an even more acurate picture but I don’t have that number.”

    This would be a fine additional analysis. The numbers are almost certainly available, but it might require going to the library.

    ”You seem to be arguing that real rate measures fairness. If so, then you must be saying that in 1940 the gas tax is the fairest since you used that for your baseline.”

    Real rate is a good measure because self-absorbed Washingtonians too often only look at the bottom line—how it affects them personally. A more sophisticated analysis would have to take into account all sources of transportation funding, the infrastructure construction requirements, infrastructure operating costs, maintenance costs, and emergency expenditures. Unfortunately the simple message of Goldy’s analysis will get completely lost. Sometimes it helps to follow the KISS principle.

    ”Why did you choose this year? How come you didn’t use 1921 for your baseline? The gas tax was 1 cent, which would be about 9 cents now in real terms. How about 1976 when the gas tax was 9 cents? That would be about 3 cents in real terms. The current 28 cent (approved in 2003) is approximately 3 and 10 times those amounts in real terms.

    Ummm. . . 1976 is still on the graph. And going back to 1921 would not change the graph except to add stuff on the left. I guess the question is, do you think that sales tax supporting a 1920’s infrastructure (inflated by population size) is the right yardstick to use?

    ”It appears to me you are curve fitting to justify your argument.”

    There is no curve fitting going on at all here. Goldy simply plotted two series of numbers directly.

    ”I think how the money spent is a completely different debate topic, something that certainly would be even more relevant after I-912 either qualifies for the ballot, or fails to.”

    It is worth reading the legislation the increased the gas tax this year. The legislature was quite specific on how the new money would be spent.

  11. 12

    Chuck spews:

    Goldy@4
    ” Likewise, heavier vehicles like trucks, which consume more gas per mile, as cause more wear per mile”

    Are you sure Goldy? Did you know that a dining room chair puts more pressure in PSI terms than a king sized waterbed? I am thinking that if one actually investigated it a Geo Metro with a full compliment of passengers probably puts more pressure (wear) on the road in PSI terms than an 18 wheeler when you consider the footprint of the vehicle. No I have nothing to back it up, but it is a thought.

  12. 13

    Ivan spews:

    Seeking @ 5 says:

    “Our legislature is like a tick feeding on blood. They will not stop taxing until they are stopped. If we don’t put our foot down now then when should we?”

    What then is your program for making the necessary infrastructure fixes to our system and relieving the congestion on our state’s roads, and how do you propose that we pay for it? How for example, do you propose that we pay for repairing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which is a state highway? And no, I do not favor a tunnel.

    I’m waiting to hear some serious suggestions from the free-lunch bunch, other than “don’t tax me.” I do not know, for example, what problem is solved by the anti-road-repair Inintiative 912.

  13. 15

    dj spews:

    ronin @ 8

    “Where does the money collected now go?”

    This is well documented both for past expenditures and for planned expenditures using the new gas tax.

    “We already pay one of the highest gas taxes in the nation”

    But, we pay THE LOWEST State income tax in the nation. Overall, our state tax burden is ranked right in the middle of the 50 states: we are 24th out of 50.

    “. . .and we have one of the worst road infrastructures.”

    No, we don’t. This sounds like a talk radio made-up “fact.”

    However, given that transportation revenue was gutted in 1999, and inflation ate away at the gas tax (fixed at $0.23 from 1991 to 2003), we certainly could achieve the goal of having the worst infrastructure in the country. Here’s the plan: (1) pass an initiative to repeal the gas tax increase. (2) prevent the legislature from raising revenue to maintain our existing infrastructure, (3) allow infrastructure to crumble and decay, (4) rename “The State of Washington” to “The State of Bangladesh”, (5) wait for businesses to leave the state along with the unemployed, (6) spread dirt over all roads to fill in the potholes and cracks.

    “To make matters worse, this transportation package does nothing to improve – it’s just for maintenance.”

    Not true. You have been brainwashed by talk radio bullshit.

    “I would glady pay more tax if it was going to make an improvement in traffic congestion.”

    The tax goes for many improvements like ferry operations, Puget Sound capital construction, an urban arterial trust account, state transportation improvements, providing transportation funds for local governments (cities, towns, counties), and rural arterials.

    The first priority of these funds is for safety improvements, congestion is the next priority and new roads is the lowest priority. So, unless you think reduced congestion should come at the expense of reducing accidents, it would seem the priorities are consistent with your wishes.

    “Furthermore, how the money will be spent is only an intention at this time. There are no guarantees that it will be used for the viaduct, floating bridge, et. al.”

    But, for the vast majority of projects this is not true. You happened to pick the two mega-projects that require finding large outside funding. There are many more projects than that that don’t require finding extrordinary revenue sources. Look into it! Seriously!

  14. 16

    Ivan spews:

    Chuck @ 12:

    What do you have against people making a living wage? How does that get roads fixed? If you pay people less, do you expect to get more and better work out of them?

    Why don’t you run for office on that? Tell people your platform is that they will make less money, and that we will all be better off for it.

  15. 18

    Chuck spews:

    Ivan@15
    When there is a shortage of money you cut costs and prevailing wage is a MAJOR cost. By the way, the peoplw will still make a living wage, just like they do in the “real” civilian world.

  16. 19

    Goldy spews:

    Conservative @9,

    If you are implying I’m cherry-picking my dates, think again. I chose 1940, because that’s the earliest date for which the government provides annual GDP Chain Index statistics. Using the Consumer Price Index, for which there is older historical data, we can compare the nominal tax with the equivalent in real 2004 dollars for select years from 1921 to 1940:

    1921     1     10.6
    1924     2     22.1
    1929     3     33.1
    1931     4     49.7
    1933     5     72.7
    1940     5     67.5

    As you can see, the CPI would have supported my argument with even more dramatic numbers. I chose to use the GDP Deflator because the literature suggests it is more accurate, and because the government provides estimates through 2009.

    But whichever inflation index you use, the result remains the same… in real dollars, the value of the gas tax has been at or near all-time lows… and even after the 9.5 cent increase will be below historical averages.

  17. 20

    dj spews:

    Chuck @ 11

    Did you know that a dining room chair puts more pressure in PSI terms than a king sized waterbed?”

    Interesting point, Chuck. The two have different engineering requirements and cause different types of “failures”. The chair may mar the maple floors, whereas the waterbed would reveal structural weaknesses.

    “I am thinking that if one actually investigated it a Geo Metro with a full compliment of passengers probably puts more pressure (wear) on the road in PSI terms than an 18 wheeler when you consider the footprint of the vehicle.”

    Well, a 1995 Metro weights about 2,200 with a couple of large passengers. So, a fully loaded 18 wheeler (80,000 lbs, I believe) would need to have 145 Metro-sized tires to have the same loading. . . .

    Of course, PSI is only one type of wear and tear—the absolute weight of a vehicle rolling over a concrete slab probably affects the longivity of the concrete and the substructure. . . . Just speculating here.

  18. 21

    ConservativeFirst spews:

    dj @ 10

    “Ummm. . . 1976 is still on the graph. And going back to 1921 would not change the graph except to add stuff on the left.”

    Sorry my bad on 1976, I corrected it in a later post.

    “I guess the question is, do you think that sales tax supporting a 1920’s infrastructure (inflated by population size) is the right yardstick to use?”

    No I wouldn’t make that argument, but using 1921 as a baseline shows Goldy’s headline “WA’s gas tax near all-time low” to be the misleading statement that it is. The all-time low for the gas tax obviously would be 1920, when there was no tax, or 1921 when in real terms the tax was 9 cents.

    Do you think a sales tax representing 1940’s infrastructure is the right yardstick to use? That’s what Goldy is arguing.

    “Sometimes it helps to follow the KISS principle.”

    Keeping it simple, and using Goldy’s logic I could argue to lower the tax to 9 cents.

    “There is no curve fitting going on at all here. Goldy simply plotted two series of numbers directly.”

    Are you Goldy? If not, how do you know? I understand your desire to defend his position, but only he can answer if he’s curve fitting.

    “It is worth reading the legislation the increased the gas tax this year. The legislature was quite specific on how the new money would be spent.”

    Are you sure about that? The funds can be transferred from projects listed, so money could be taken away from projects in Eastern Washington to fund the viaduct replacement, or vice versa. Either way, I think the money is likely inadequate to fund all the projects, so additional taxes, will be needed. I don’t see any of the proponents of this “solution” communicating that to the public at large.

  19. 22

    JDB spews:

    Chuck@16:

    If DJ’s post is void of facts, please point out. He seems to have many facts. He should have also pointed out that we now pay one of the lowest car tab taxes, a tax that was dedicated for transportation by the Republican legislature in the mid 90s.

    But, this isn’t about gas taxes and transportations. This is about a tantrum from the far right over the election, who is going to their old play book and attacking a needed tax because it is emotionally easy to sell. John Carlson has been quite clear about this. The far right would rather cut off their nose to spite their face then do anything to help our roads.

    That is why Goldy’s and dj’s arguements, while very logical and fact driven, don’t matter to Carlson, ss minnow and their fellow travelers. Who cares about making this state better, this is all about power to them.

  20. 24

    dj spews:

    Chuck @ 16

    “Your points are cute but completely void of fact… “

    Really, Chuck?

    We don’t have the lowest income tax in the state?

    Our overall State tax burden is not ranked at 24 out of 50?

    Is Washington’s transportation infrastructure ranked last in the nation?

    Did I695 lead to substantial cuts in funding for transportation infrastructure?

    Was the gas tax not fixed at $0.23 from 1991 to 2003?

    Was Washington State immune from inflation from 1991 to 2003?

    Have I misrepresented the final Senate Bill 6103 in giving the list of what the gas tax goes for? (Specifically, do you question the priorties I mentioned? Or do you question the list of where the money goes?)

    Do you believe the money is only slated for two mega-projects (SR520 and Alaska Way viaduct)?

    Sorry, Chuck, what part of my post that I stated as fact is not based on fact?

  21. 25

    David spews:

    C’mon, dj, of course your post must be devoid of fact, because if it were true then it would conflict with Chuck’s beliefs, and Chuck’s beliefs can’t be wrong, so you must not be telling the truth. It’s that d*mn liberal media, trying to trick us with “facts” when we *know* what’s *really* going on.

  22. 26

    Seeking the truth spews:

    Hardly right wing.

    We needed a bridge from the east side to seattle. We created a toll bridge.

    We needed a bridge on the hood canal. We created a toll bridge.

    We needed a bridge across the narrows. We created a toll bridge. And even a second one that we didn’t want.

    Wy does seattle get to tax the entire state for something they need?

    Seattle created its own problem by only allowing a 2-lane freeway through the center of it. To make matters worse they put a building over the top of it. The constant lane changes to get through seattle only make the problem worse.

    The replacement for the viaduct should be a toll road just like everyone else has had to do.

  23. 27

    Chuck spews:

    JDB@22
    OK the low tax theory has holes all over it, but it looks cute on the surface. Back in the 40s to the 60s the family had only one car (usually, and yes exeptions existed) and in many cases one licensed driver. Hence fewer on the road. In the 40s as well as the 50s infastructure was being built from scratch, with no previous experience building it. Now we have much experience hence should lower the costs, base infasructure already exists lowering costs even more, all that is required is to add to it as well as maintain and repair (and of coarse replace in some instances) what is there, even further lowering costs. Now we have usually 2 driving 2 cars in a household up to 4 and 5 drivers and cars in some households, unheard of before the 60s. This number of taxpayers even further lowers the per capita costs (2 live cheaper than one theory here). So you see the “study” is moot!

  24. 28

    David spews:

    ConservativeFirst @ 21: “‘There is no curve fitting going on at all here. Goldy simply plotted two series of numbers directly.’

    Are you Goldy? If not, how do you know? I understand your desire to defend his position, but only he can answer if he’s curve fitting.

    No, that’s just ignorant. It’s clear Goldy’s not curve fitting, because there’s NO CURVE. He’s not trying to create a function (a curve) that approximates a set of data points; he’s simply plotting the points and connecting them. His graph is linear and starts at 0; you couldn’t ask for a fairer representation of the data.

  25. 29

    Chuck spews:

    “Was Washington State immune from inflation from 1991 to 2003?”

    No they got 5 cents per gallon….

  26. 30

    Ivan spews:

    Chuck @ 18:

    Show us the EVIDENCE that eliminating prevailing wage would help relieve traffic congestion and fix our roads, OK? Don’t be like Dino Rossi in Judge Bridges’ court.

  27. 31

    dj spews:

    Chuck @ 23

    “I am thinking that the “footprint of a semi might equal 145 metro tires…”

    Fair enough! You might well be right on the loading. Metros probably use 6″ tires inflated to 32 PSI, whereas, I believe, 18 wheelers use 11″ tires inflated to 100 to 120 PSI. Unfortunately, I don’t know the patch area of either type of vehicle. If the patch length along the axis of travel is a simple function of tire inflation then the Metro wins. But, I am sure the physics relating tire inflation to contact length are much more complicated than that).

  28. 32

    dj spews:

    ConservativeFirst @ 21

    “Keeping it simple, and using Goldy’s logic I could argue to lower the tax to 9 cents.”

    Ummm. . . no, that would be the “Keep it studid” principle. Revenue would go down because of inflation.

    “Are you Goldy? If not, how do you know? I understand your desire to defend his position, but only he can answer if he’s curve fitting.”

    Goldy explained what he did. I read it. It isn’t rocket science from there.

    Are you sure about that? The funds can be transferred from projects listed, so money could be taken away from projects in Eastern Washington to fund the viaduct replacement, or vice versa.

    Read the legislation. The gas tax goes to very specific categories, and cannot be moved around without the legislature taking action to do so. Within categories, there is flexibility, but that precludes using E. Washington money for a new 520 bridge or the Alaska Way viaduct.

    “Either way, I think the money is likely inadequate to fund all the projects, so additional taxes, will be needed.”

    Some of the tax goes to projects (so-called category C projects) require bond financing to complete construction.

    “I don’t see any of the proponents of this “solution” communicating that to the public at large.”

    Ummm. . . it is not hidden by any means (RTF Legislation!). I originally learned of this stuff through the media. Finally, the concept of “proponents of this solution” is flawed, since the solution is the law now. There are now proponents of eliminating the gas tax increase (and therefore gutting funding for transportation), but the proponents of doing so have not been providing genuine education of the pros and cons of doing so.

  29. 33

    Donnageddon spews:

    Ivan @ 30

    Chuck is always harping about working people being paid too much. I mean, if people are too stupid to have rich relatives leave you a large trust fund, then you do not deserve a living wage.

    Chuck lives perpetually in decades past.

  30. 34

    pbj spews:

    Yeah. Whatever.

    How about those Democrats that got sentenced for vote fraud in St. Louis?

    Defendants guilty of vote fraud
    By Michael Shaw
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    06/28/2005

    All five defendants in the vote fraud trial in East St. Louis were convicted by a jury today after five and a half hours of deliberations.

    The defendants showed little response when the verdicts were displayed on an overhead projector in federal court. Defendant Sheila Thomas dabbed her eyes, but the other four stared straight ahead.

    Charles Powell Jr., the head of the city’s Democratic Party, three precinct committeemen and an election worker had been accused of buying votes to get prominent Democrats elected in the Nov. 2 election.

    http://www.stltoday.com/stltod.....enDocument

    Lying cheating bastard Democrats finally get caught! Perhaps they could come to King County and deal with our Democrat crooks too!

  31. 36

    pbj spews:

    Goldy,

    the last time you showed your graph, you promised to cite the source, provide the data and methodology etc. To date you have faled to do so.

  32. 37

    dj spews:

    pbj @ 36

    Hey, an on-topic post from you. Sweeeeet!

    So, pbj, this isn’t rocket science. Goldy took the gas tax prices and plotted them. Then, he calculated for each year, the price adjusted to 2005 dollars.

    Here is the gas tax history: http://dor.wa.gov/docs/reports.....istory.pdf

    Here is an inflation calculator: http://www.westegg.com/inflation/

    (If you don’t want to use the consumer price index, enter “inflation calculator” into google and take you pick.

    I should take you about 30 minutes to produce your own graph.

  33. 38

    Goldy spews:

    PBJ @36,

    What the fuck? I provided a link to the TNT article that shows a table of WA’s gas tax increases from 1921 to present, and I provided a link to the US Budget document on the GPO website that includes that contains the GDP Deflator historical data. That’s the source material for this particular graph.

    As to the methodology… how about matching up the two tables and dividing the gas price in actual dollars by the GDP Chained Price Index for the corresponding year, then multiplying the result by 1.0858 to bump it from year 2000 to year 2005? That should be pretty damned obvious, as what else could one do with this data?

    And FYI, I haven’t completed the research I plan to deliver, but anyway you look at it, we get the same result: the gas tax costs less now than during most of its 84-year history.

  34. 39

    All tools here, and yet there are still screws loose. spews:

    Golgy (rose colored goggles) @ 38

    “result: the gas tax costs less now than during most of its 84-year history.”

    The tax does, but how does the overall price of gas compare when gas tax and state average price per gallon are added together? that is the real answer to why Washingtonians are saying no.

    p.s. your graph doesn’t show federal funds now added to the pot for use on state roads.

  35. 41

    dj spews:

    tools @ 39

    “The tax does, but how does the overall price of gas compare when gas tax and state average price per gallon are added together?

    Excellent question, tools! In 2004 dollars, the price of gasoline peaked out at $2.94/gallon in 1981. The 13.5 cent per gallon gas tax in 1981 is worth 29.4 cents in 2004 dollars. The total cost of gas (in recent history, anyway) peaked at $3.24 per gallon in 1981 (using 2004 dollars).

    Here is information on gas prices: http://inflationdata.com/Infla.....lation.asp

    “p.s. your graph doesn’t show federal funds now added to the pot for use on state roads.”

    It doesn’t show the loss of revenue from I695, either. The gasoline tax has to fund a lot more stuff then it used to because this major source of revenue was lost in 1999.

  36. 42

    All tools here, and yet there are still screws loose. spews:

    “Excellent question, tools! In 2004 dollars, the price of gasoline peaked out at $2.94/gallon in 1981. The 13.5 cent per gallon gas tax in 1981 is worth 29.4 cents in 2004 dollars. The total cost of gas (in recent history, anyway) peaked at $3.24 per gallon in 1981 (using 2004 dollars).”

    Ooh! one bad year that is worse than what we will get reamed with.

  37. 43

    dj spews:

    tools @ 42

    “Ooh! one bad year that is worse than what we will get reamed with.”

    Well, get used to a lot more bad years ahead as demand goes up and supplies dwindle. . . .

    Do you think that high gas prices is a good justification to stop maintaining our roads?

  38. 44

    All tools here, and yet there are still screws loose. spews:

    “Do you think that high gas prices is a good justification to stop maintaining our roads?”

    Once again there are other less hair brained schemes to maintain roads, this is all about the viaduct and 520 everything else is just a rider to make it seem more palatable.

  39. 45

    dj spews:

    tool @ 44

    “Once again there are other less hair brained schemes to maintain roads”

    We agree there. I am not happy that the gas excise tax is how the revenue is raised—I would prefer the old car tab tax, or better yet, gut the existing tax system and go with an income tax. Both solutions alternatives would probably raise my household tax burden, but I think that is fairer overall than what we have now. Where we disagree is that I very much want the highways to be maintained and improved.

    “. . . .this is all about the viaduct and 520 everything else is just a rider to make it seem more palatable.”

    I avoid the viaduct but must use the floating bridge 3 to 6 times per week (in both directions). Therefore, it would be in my best interest if this legislation were only about these two projects. But, I have read the legislation, and find no evidence that the increased gas tax is “all about”, mostly about, or even modestly about (with or without a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge”).

    The percentages of tax that goes into many different pots is precisely specified as part of the legislation. The goals and prioities are laid out, and seem quite logical to me.

    Please feel free to try and persuade me that the increase is only about SR 520 and the viaduct. It would simply require me to change my idealistic reading (i.e. making our state a better place) to a pragmatic reading (enriching my life through a better commute). Some solid evidence could well convince me of that. (I would still, of course, support the legislation as enacted, but you would have the satisfaction of knowing that I adopted your perspective on the motives behind the legislation.)

  40. 46

    bluetaco spews:

    Goldy, One more way in which the real burden of gas taxes is lower than would appear from just looking at nominal tax levels: if you also adjusted for the growth in real wages and increase in automobile gas mileage since 1940 you would get an even greater drop on the burden. After all, what should really be captured by a measure of the gas tax burden is how much time does an average person have to work in order to earn enough to pay the gas tax for the distance they must drive each day. This is somewhat offset by the increase in average distances we drive in 2005 as compared to drivers in 1940.

  41. 47

    Goldy spews:

    bluetaco @46,

    Absolutely, in fact I have some data on the cost of the tax as a percentage of real wages, but haven’t put all the research together yet.

    What’s curious to note is that the tax was so high in real dollars at a time when there was a lot of federal money paying for roads, and yet we were using tolls to pay for many of our biggest projects. Now our road maintenance and construction is almost entirely paid for by the gas tax alone.

  42. 48

    David spews:

    ConservativeFirst muses @ 8: “real gross [gas] tax revenue is quite relevant . . . We can use gross revenue to measure the per capita burden on each person by dividing gross revenue by the population. Total drivers would provide an even more acurate picture . . . .”

    And dj volunteers @ 11 that “This would be a fine additional analysis.

    I find this mildly amusing. Let’s break it down:

    First, we have to understand our variables:
    a. Gross gas tax revenue = gas tax rate (r) * number of gallons of gas sold each year (g).
    b. Gallons sold (g) = total number of drivers (n) * average distance driven in miles (d) / average miles-per-gallon (mpg).

    So what do we discover if we calculate the gross gas tax revenue per capita of drivers?
    1. Gross gas tax revenue per capita of drivers = (r) * (g) / (n)
    2. (r) * (g) / (n) = (r) * [(n) * (d) / (mpg)] / (n)
    3. (r) * [(n) * (d) / (mpg)] / (n) = (r) * (d) / (mpg) !

    Look at that! The gross gas tax revenue per driver is a function of only three variables:
        · the gas tax rate per gallon (as Goldy posted),
        · the average distance driven.
        · and the average fuel efficiency of our cars.
    The further we drive, the more tax is raised per person (which makes sense, as more driving means more wear on the roads and more demand for road expansion); the more efficient our cars are, the less tax is raised per person (which means the tax rate must rise in order to raise the same amount of money per mile driven).

    The size of the driving population doesn’t affect the analysis. You don’t have to know that number. Using gross revenue to measure the per capita burden on each driver is multiplying and then dividing by the same number; it’s basically a red herring.

  43. 50

    klake spews:

    Of course, PSI is only one type of wear and tear—the absolute weight of a vehicle rolling over a concrete slab probably affects the longivity of the concrete and the substructure. . . . Just speculating here.

    Comment by dj— 6/30/05 @ 10:34 am

    dj if you engineered the road to suport all the vehicles this would be moot. Back in the 70’s, when some of you were in diapers this country had a gas shortage, and a bunch of clowns changed the speed limit to 50 mph. Now that was the begining of the deterioration of this Nations Highway’s. This state and others increase the load limits on the larger vehicles which the roads were not designed to carry over extended time. The biggest problem we have today you speend more money and time than it would cost to build the infrastructure. When I was in Kuwait in 2000 I watch them build three miles of highway in thirty days(four Lanes). You couldn’t do that in thirty years in this State.

  44. 51

    David spews:

    I think I was less than eloquent in that last math-filled post. Let me restate my conclusion clearly: The gas tax rate, by itself, adjusted for inflation, really is an excellent measure of the level of funding available for our roads.

    The more we drive (including larger population and longer driving distance), the more tax is raised; and at the same time, the more we drive, the more wear on the roads and demand for new ones. I figure that the higher tax revenue is well-correlated with the increased spending requirements. If so, that’s a wash.

    As our cars become more efficient, we need less gas to travel the same distance, so the less tax is raised per mile driven. Perhaps our cars create slightly less wear as well, to the extent that they get lighter; but any other technological innovations essentially function to increase wear on the roads without increasing gas tax revenue. So as MPG rises, the gas tax needs to rise as well to keep maintenance and improvements at an equilibrium level.

    So the inflation-adjusted gas tax rate is a good measure of the funding available per mile driven, and is comparable in different years.

    That applies to the purchasing power of the gas tax, after being adjusted for inflation (by the GDP Deflator). The flip side of the coin is what portion of our earning power the gas tax represents. Wages have consistently risen faster than inflation. So even after adjusting for inflation, it takes less of our income (a smaller %, or fewer hours of work) to pay the gas tax today than it has in the past. If Goldy plots the gas excise tax wage-adjusted. it will be clear that the relative cost of the gas tax (compared to our earnings) has been falling over time.

  45. 52

    righton spews:

    I agree w/ the other wag; being a liberal and loving taxes is some kind of mental disorder….all the energy to defend a tax???????

  46. 53

    Terry J spews:

    Goldy:

    Showing a graph with the actual tax as Nominal and also as an Inflation adjusted number is a place to start. But it only tells us about revenue, not how it is spent or about its impact on the average family.

    As mentioned by others, miles driven, efficiency (MPG), weight, speed, materials and technology for construction, environmental issues, art, safety, politics, and other issues have greatly influenced both costs and revenues.

    What about historic data on costs to build and maintain?

    For the I-695 comments, the Court threw it out. The legislature enacted their version of it. Then we found out how little of the MVET actually went to transportation. It may have been a budget hole, but the best adjustment seemed to be made by transportation.

    So how does one arrive at a rational comparison? Transportaion spending is some combination of the gas tax in WA, Federal Highway Trust Fund, special Federal apprpriations, MVET, Tolls, and General Revenue. Tolls and the MVET somehow are off the table, except at Tacoma Narrows.

    On the spending side, what has been the historical trend to build or maintain a lane mile of county road, State Highway, and Interstate? How much of the trend is explained by land costs, by construction costs, by mitigation measures?

    On the political side, why is all the press coverage on the dominant media covering only the downtown Seattle projects? Anyone care to argue that the coverage of the Viaduct and Evergren Point Floating Bridge makes voters in other areas of the State feel their taxes are being spent wisely? And if these worthys need to be rebuilt, why not impose a toll now to fund it?

    The quickest solution to freight mobility is to dedecate the HOV lanes to trucks with a GVW over 20,000 lbs. Sound Transit and the Monorail are cute, but the real value is in the highways. and not just the ones in Seattle.

  47. 54

    Donnageddon spews:

    JHC, when a bridge collapses I certainly hope all of our Repug TROLLS are underneath it.

    Crimany!

  48. 55

    David spews:

    I would hope that no one is underneath a collapsing bridge, but that the reverberations of the impact knock some sense into the trolls.

  49. 56

    Chuck spews:

    Ivan@30
    Easy money, instead of a contractor beinng forced to artificially pay his (roofers) 39.00 per hour (prevailing wage) he can instead pay the (roofers) $19.00 per hour, a very good wage, and either hire twice as many to get the contract done early…or get it done under bid….

  50. 57

    Ivan spews:

    Chuck @ 56:

    Demonstrate to me that $39 per hour roofers have anything to do with building highways. Don’t quote me theory from your Evergreen Fascist foundation bible. Show me some hard evidence that paying the prevailing wage lengthens projects.

    You won’t, because you can’t. You’re just another right-wing bullshit artist pissed off because Unions have the power to negotiate a decent wage for their members, and you don’t.

    Well, let me tell you something, you punk. Those Union contracts have two signatures on them. One of those is that of the employer. When that employer signed that contract that set those wages, he must have thought he was getting something for his money, right? And that he still would make a profit even with that wage scale, right?

    So stick your Ayn Rand theories up your ass, hear? You get what you pay for in this society. You want cheap? Go buy Chinese junk at Wal-Mart, made by slave labor. We’re not turning this state into Mississippi just because you’re a cheap prick.

  51. 58

    Chuck spews:

    Ivan@57
    Ivan, you are a brainwashed union hack! You are an example of why the unions are dying in this country. There was a time when the unions did well for people, but that time is long gone and with atitudes like yours good riddance!

  52. 59

    Ivan spews:

    Chuck @ 58:

    Well, let me ask you a few questions:

    Have you ever been told on your job when you may or may not go to the bathroom, or been forced to sign a “noncompete agreement,” or been made to pee in a bottle at a moment’s notice, or been told to work “off the clock,” or under unsafe working conditions? Have your suggestions to improve your workplace been ignored? Have you been told that your ideas are your employer’s “intellectual property?” Do your bosses discriminate in hiring, or promotions, or job assignments? Do they treat you or others with disrespect? Have you been forced to accept a cut in pay? A decrease in your medical benefits? Has your job been “outsourced,” or “offshored,” or “contracted out?” Do you know people who have experienced any of the above? If so, maybe you need a Union.

    Or maybe you are independently wealthy and don’t have to work, or maybe your shit doesn’t stink.

    There was a time when private enterprise could deliver the goods, and the jobs. Now it is delivering them to India. I don’t think I’m the brainwashed hack here, bubba.

  53. 60

    Chuck spews:

    Ivan@59
    “or been made to pee in a bottle at a moment’s notice”>>>

    It is called having a CDL endorsement on your license, and the union cannot stop it because it is THE LAW, ignorant union people indeed!

    “There was a time when private enterprise could deliver the goods, and the jobs. Now it is delivering them to India. I don’t think I’m the brainwashed hack here, bubba.”>>>

    This is BECAUSE of the unions!

  54. 61

    Ivan spews:

    Chuck @ 60:

    “It is called having a CDL endorsement on your license, and the union cannot stop it because it is THE LAW, ignorant union people indeed!”

    Having been a Teamsters business agent, I hardly need you to tell me what a CDL requirement is. Nobody objects to drug testing for CDLs, crane operators, or any other people who use heavy equipment. That’s a safety issue, and Union members are a hell of a lot more concerned with safety than their employers are.

    As for jobs being sent to India being the Unions’ fault, guess again, smart guy. Ask all those NONUNION high-tech workers who had to train their Indian replacements if they wish now they had had a Union contract with some job security.

    I’m done with you now. You don’t have the brains God gave gravel. You’re a mean, ignorant, stupid redneck prick, and not worth my time anymore.

  55. 62

    Chuck spews:

    Ivan@61
    “As for jobs being sent to India being the Unions’ fault, guess again, smart guy. Ask all those NONUNION high-tech workers who had to train their Indian replacements if they wish now they had had a Union contract with some job security.”>>>>

    I dont need to ask them, I watched the UNION employees with the blessing of the Machinists local 751 show the foregners how to do their jobs and watched them leave as they were laid off at Boeing. All this while union president Tom Taker (baker) was robbing the union blind selling union property with his sweethart deals while padding his pocket, as well as hiring his concubine with all the qualifications of a hooker into a $150,000 union job…that is your union buddy! Where the fuck is Boeing now?

  56. 63

    ConservativeFirst spews:

    David @ 51

    Real tax rate (when comparing today to 1940) fails to measure the following (and probably more):

    1) Longer commutes.
    2) More traffic congestion.
    3) Many households now have two commuters. Most have two cars.
    4) Society’s increased reliance on cars.

    I’m not saying that the gas tax should never go up. But, if you are arguing the real gas tax rate should always match some arbitrary point in time, you need to do more than say “it’s too low now” to justify raising it to match that arbitrary point in time.