States' Return on Gas Tax Contributions Varies

States' Return on Gas Tax Contributions Varies

Alaska gets back more than $7 for every dollar it contributes to the federal Highway Trust Fund in gasoline taxes, the most of any state, according to 2013 data from the Department of Transportation.

The District of Columbia actually comes in first, receiving 10 times the amount back from the government for every dollar collected in federal gas taxes, mostly because of all the federal facilities in the city. Alaska gets back $7.28. Other states in the top five include:

  • Vermont, nearly $5 for every $1 collected;
  • North Dakota and Montana, about $3 for every $1 collected;
  • Rhode Island, $2.76 for every $1 collected.

Every state gets back at least as much as it contributes from the 18.4 cents a gallon drivers pay in federal taxes on gasoline and 24.4 cents on diesel fuel. Used by the states to build and maintain transportation infrastructure, the amount they receive is based on how much infrastructure they have.

Since 1956, only four states have gotten back less than what they have put into the trust fund and that was only by pennies: Indiana (97 cents), Michigan (99 cents), South Carolina (98 cents) and Texas (95 cents).

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the trust fund will run out of money in two years without congressional action. “To avoid such shortfalls, lawmakers would have to enact legislation to reduce highway funding, increase dedicated tax receipts, transfer money from the general fund of the Treasury to the Highway Trust Fund (as has occurred in recent years), or undertake some combination of those approaches,” the CBO said.

The current transportation bill, which covers the gas tax and Highway Trust Fund, expires next year. Getting a new one through a fractious Congress could prove to be difficult. It generally takes years to push through a transportation bill, even during times of relative congressional harmony.

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