Gas tax hikes taking effect in states amid low pump prices

Several states hiking gas taxes amid push to increase the federal gas tax


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 2, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Democratic strategist Steve Leser says that these hikes are needed to pay for our crumbling roads and bridges.

Well, that would be great, I guess, Steve, if it went to just that purpose. Right?

STEVE LESER, SENIOR PARTNER, DEMOCRATIC SPRING STRATEGIES: Well, just about all of the states take their gas taxes and put them into their transportation fund. So, it will go to that purpose.

You don't see it...

CAVUTO: You don't took these states raid those funds for other purposes?

LESER: I don't.

But I think what happens is, we need so much work done to our roads and bridges that you don't really see the effect of this. You're patching a pothole here and there. You're doing other things just to keep the bridges in barely serviceable condition.

CAVUTO: So, what are we doing the money we're already spending, motor vehicle taxes $96 billion, tolls $13 billion, property taxes and assessments, a lot of it earmarked for just these purposes, $11 billion, $44 billion general fund appropriations. What are we doing with that money?

LESER: Well, we have a massive road and bridge infrastructure in this country. Much of it is crumbling. We haven't had a major overhaul...

CAVUTO: But if $100 billion isn't enough to cover it, where is that money going?

LESER: We haven't had a major overhaul since the '50s, under the Eisenhower administration.

CAVUTO: Fine, but I'm saying $100 billion, where is that going?

LESER: It's just not nearly enough.

CAVUTO: One hundred billion is not enough? One hundred billion a year is not enough?

LESER: It's not.


LESER: We need a major infrastructure project in this country just to get our roads and bridges up to an acceptable -- acceptable level.

The American Society of Civil Engineers grades our infrastructure in this country at a D-plus.

CAVUTO: I'm the first one to agree with you, Steve, that we have a horrible infrastructure and a lot of these roads and bridges are crumbling.

But I just -- before I give more money, I want know what the heck ha happened to the money we have already given.

LESER: It's being spent. It's being spent, though, on barely keeping things going.

CAVUTO: Yes, but I have a feeling not on roads and bridges.

LESER: No, I totally get it that you don't really see the effect of it because we're barely keeping things going.

It's just, if you have an old building or any other really old piece of property, it's not the same to patch it as to really build something...


CAVUTO: I understand that. But I'm looking at it in my simplistic way and saying, if $100 billion isn't taking care of it, $200 billion will, $300 billion, what?

LESER: No, I think it's actually probably a little bit more than that, Neil. I think we need...

CAVUTO: Really?

LESER: I think we really need a -- when Eisenhower did this back in the '50s and the '60s, the amount of money that he spent to create this transportation system in the first place is huge.

And when you think about it, obviously, we Democrats have a different idea of how transportation should go in this country. We believe in mass transit. But if we're going to be a car-based society, we need to spend the money that we need to spend to make our roads and bridges...


CAVUTO: I'm all for it, if you can prove to me that every penny has been used for this purpose in all 50 states and you come back to me and say, Neil, we have gone through everything. And I will -- grudgingly, I will say I will pay, all right, well, I will pay up more.

LESER: Well, the interesting thing...

CAVUTO: But how do we know, since we know that lockboxes don't exist in Washington, that this lockbox for transportation needs will go to this -- this intent?

LESER: Well, interestingly enough, of the five states that you just had on the board there where they're increasing, at least talking about increasing gas taxes, three of those five are led by Republicans.

CAVUTO: Right.

LESER: So...

CAVUTO: Oh, no, this to me isn't a Republican-Democratic issue.

LESER: Right. I agree.

CAVUTO: Like it's a "pissing away money" issue.

LESER: Well, what I'm saying is, even tax-averse Republicans realize that this is needed in order to improve the infrastructure in those states.

CAVUTO: All right. So, you are saying more money is needed. You haven't addressed the fact whether the $100 billion has really covered what it should be covering. You're saying it is not even close to what it should be covering. And $100 billion seems like a lot to me, but maybe you're right. All these other ancillary fees and all aren't addressing the job.

Where do we go, then?

LESER: Well, I'm not -- if there's a concern that this money is isn't being spent where you think it's being spent, let's have an audit. I'm not...

CAVUTO: I ask the same of the congress men and women who are proposing this, and they -- and I say, well, let's get an audit then going. And they all say, yes, we're going to get an audit going. They never do, not a one.

LESER: Well, that's not something obviously that I can address. But...

CAVUTO: But I think before we address tapping Americans for more money, we should find out where the money went. Right?

LESER: I would never object to that, Neil.

CAVUTO: Really?

LESER: I'm right -- I'm right there with you.

CAVUTO: OK, it's good to know.

Steve, seriously, happy new year.

LESER: Happy new year.

CAVUTO: Good seeing you.

LESER: Good seeing you.

CAVUTO: All right.

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