More states looking to gas tax hikes to finance road repairs

Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton sounds off


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 11, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, hit the brakes, because those potholes could soon be hitting you in the wallet.

Welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto.

And the rough winter weather doing a number on the nation's roads and bridges, potholes popping up all over the place, and now tapped-out states are looking to pump up gas taxes to fix them. At least six states are doing just that, another four considering it.

To Rick Leventhal in Paramus, New Jersey, on whether drivers are willing to pay -- Rick.

RICK LEVENTHAL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Neil, anyone who has been on the road in the last couple months knows the potholes are really bad this year, mostly because of this rough winter we have had. All that snow and ice that melts and then refreezes, it creates cracks in the road, and those roads become potholes.

And many states say they simply don't have the money to fix them. Also, they're proposing this raising of the gas tax to generate the revenue. Two dozen states have not raised gas taxes in 10 years. Half-a- dozen states have not raised gas taxes in 25 years or more. Combine that will people driving less and driving more fuel-efficient cars and you have a lack of funds, according to many lawmakers, that must be addressed.

Some states want to tie gas taxes to inflation or rising fuel costs, so as either goes up, so do the taxes. The average state gas tax, 31.4 cents a gallon, the federal tax, another 18.4 cents. That federal tax has not been raised in 20 years. AAA says the result is a crumbling road system that absolutely needs fixing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without a doubt, our roads nationwide are in bad shape. Our general infrastructure got a great of D from the American Society of Civil Engineers. And it's estimated that we have to spend something like a trillion dollars to advance the condition that we're in.


LEVENTHAL: Meanwhile, gas prices also rising, Neil, 3 cents since last week, 21 cents since last month, so now $3.49 a gallon on average for regular fuel, and experts that could go up as well, so gas prices going up and gas taxes could go up, too.

CAVUTO: Rick Leventhal, thank you very much.

Well, are you willing then to shell out more money to make these potholes a memory? You can tweet us @TeamCavuto and we will read some of them live on the air.

First to Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who has already decided no way.

So, Walker, you're not a fan of just paying for this. And the critics say you got to, because we can't handle it.

WALKER STAPLETON, R-COLORADO STATE TREASURER: Well, Neil, I mean, this is completely ridiculous. We're literally picking pockets to plug potholes.

And whose pockets are we picking? We're picking the pockets of the common man, the everyday worker that is trying to get to work, to feed a family. This is absolutely ridiculous. And you and I both know this is not just about potholes. What this is, it's a result of states not being able to pay their bills.

It's a result of out-of-control Medicaid costs. The Pew Center says Medicaid costs are going up by 80 percent over the next eight years alone. It's a result of out-of-control retirement costs. And it's really a manifestation of the fact that the states literally are going to charge the little man and the little guy for basic infrastructure needs like potholes. And this is a sorry state of affairs to be in. That's for sure.

CAVUTO: Well, I always tell people, I don't deny the fact that we got a lot of roads that need a lot of fixing. But I always ask politicians who ask for still more money, whether it would be through higher gas taxes or fees or other type of arrangements, what have you done with the money we have already given you for just this purpose? Because I suspect that it's one of many lockboxes that neither has lock on it or is a box.

STAPLETON: Well, what is happening is, if you look at state budgets - - and Colorado is just like this -- when you look at retirement entitlement obligations, when you look at Medicaid entitlement obligations, when you look at funding through K-12 and higher education, there's literally no more money to go around.

There's no money for roads and infrastructure and bridges, no money for corrections, no money for public healths. And in the state legislature, just like at the federal government, they're out of ideas. And usually when politicians are out of ideas, the people they soak first are the taxpayers.

CAVUTO: Well, now what happens first? People everywhere know how bad these potholes are, how bad their roads are. And they know that people are going to get very angry about them, demand they be fixed. The politicians are going to come right back at them and say, well, we'd love to help you, but we need more money from you. What -- what should people say?


This is -- no, this is the typical old liberal adage of, when you're out of ideas, just go to the taxpayer. The taxpayer should be the absolutely last recourse. This requires states to engage in a process of priority budgeting and reclassifying what their budget priorities truly are going to be, and not just simply assuming that if they need more money, they can go back to the taxpayer and raise gas taxes at a time of great economic uncertainty that we're still in right now.

To think that you're just going to be able to raise gas taxes in a vacuum and it's not going to affect commerce and industry or people getting to work is totally naive. I mean, by that adage, let's double the price of gas and have less traffic on the roads, and let the potholes fix themselves over time.


CAVUTO: Careful, careful. Don't give them -- Walker, don't give them any ideas.


CAVUTO: Thank you very much. Good seeing you again.

STAPLETON: Thank you. Always good to be with you.

CAVUTO: Same here.

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