University of Michigan Gateway Ford School

The Politics of the Gas Tax: Exploring State Politics and the Oil Industry

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June 2018

C.J. Mayer

Abstract

The gas tax in the United States has significant implications for the environment and for infrastructure funding. In contrast to federal inaction for over two decades, many states have recently increased their own state-level gas taxes. This study explores the politics behind state-level policymaking on the gas tax, and looks at why some states act and others do not. This could additionally help advocates better understand federal inaction. To do so, this study performs a regression analysis to determine what factors are most important in determining whether a state has increased their gas tax in recent years. This study finds that the greater presence the oil industry has in a state, the less likely it is to increase its gas tax. Additionally, it finds that the lower a state’s tax burden, the less likely it is to increase taxes with an increase in the gas tax. Policymakers and advocates interested in increasing the gas tax should understand both the oil industry and the tax burden as key obstacles.

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