Sunday, October 16, 2011

N.C. a gas-tax donor state? No more

N.C policymakers for years complained justly that this is a net donor state when it comes to federal transportation taxes paid versus federal transportation money spent in the state.

A new analysis by the General Accounting Office of 2005-09, reported by Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, in “Can highway spending ever be fair?”  finds that, when looking at how much federal highway money each state gets, per dollar of gas-tax revenue that the state’s motorists pay, it turns out every state gets more federal highway aid than it is paying. Here's a link to the GAO report.
“There’s not a state in the union where federally funded highways 'pay for themselves,’ ” Klein writes.

I’ve reproduced a map here (via a screenshot) from the GAO report and Klein's piece. If my count is correct, compared with other states North Carolina remains at a big disadvantage, although it gets $1.09 back for every $1 paid in.  Only five states (Texas $1.03, Arizona, $1.07, Indiana $1.07, South Carolina and New Jersey, both at $1.08) get less. Two other states (Maryland and Colorado) also get $1.09.

Klein muses on whether highway spending can ever be "fair," in part because what's "fair" can be construed in different ways. And his commenters point out one of many reasons that's true: Northern states where hard freezes and salting damage the pavement will need more repair and maintenance money. (Tell that to New Jersey and Indiana.) But even if perfect fairness will always be elusive, for a state that is both geographically large as well as in the Top 10 most populous, it does seem that North Carolina has been on the losing end for too long.


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