June, 2016

Searching for a Tolerable Tax

Public Attitudes toward Roadway Financing Alternatives
  • Denvil Duncan

  • Ashley Clark

  • Stacey Giroux

  • John Graham

  • Venkata Nadella

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Find the article at Sage Publications.

A growing number of states are pursuing strategies to combat declining fuel tax revenue and fund road construction and maintenance, including the use of sales taxes, income taxes, and tolls; raising fuel tax rates; and adopting road mileage user fees. We use data from a nationally representative survey to compare public acceptability of a mileage user fee with each of these alternative revenue mechanisms. We find that support for the revenue options varies from 13.4 percent for income taxes to 33.8 percent for tolls, with higher gasoline tax rates, mileage user fees, and sales taxes in the middle. The evidence also points to stronger intensity of opposition than intensity of support across all alternatives. Finally, we find that, conditional on opposition to the mileage user fee, public acceptability is highest for tolls, followed by higher fuel taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes. Policy implications are discussed.