Opinion: Gas Taxes Are 'Redlining on Wheels'

With dwindling revenue and a narrow scope for funding projects, it may be time for Washington State to re-evaluate its gas tax in favor of more sustainable revenue sources.

1 minute read

March 17, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Gas Pump

Daniel Korzeniewski / Shutterstock

Anna Zivarts and Paulo Nunes-Ueno, in a guest post for PubliCola, advocate for ending the gas tax in Washington State, calling it "regressive and racist."

With gas consumption decreasing thanks to advancements in technology and transportation, the authors argue a gas tax "isn’t going to be a reliable revenue stream." The wealthy are more likely to own a fuel-efficient or electric vehicle, thus spending less, if anything, on gas taxes. 

Furthermore, because of its mandate to fund exclusively highways, the gas tax does not benefit neighborhood roads or other forms of transportation. Zivarts and Nunes-Ueno claim "the gas tax restrictions are redlining on wheels, funneling investments away from BIPOC neighborhoods because of the restrictions in where revenue can be spent." Expanding the state's highway system, the authors write, is "inexcusable" at a time when "the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) estimates they have less than half of what they need to keep the current highway system in good repair."

The authors contend that Washington's gas tax, increased in the 1970s to fund highway construction after prolonged lobbying by highway proponents, is no longer a useful way to fund the state's transportation projects. To invest in multimodal projects that serve all residents, "we need new sustainable funding sources that are not regressive, racist, or running out."

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