Vehicles miles-traveled tax in “five to ten years” as states run pilot studies

With more fuel efficient vehicles and higher federal government standards, several states are starting pilot programs to test a vehicles miles-traveled tax:

Minnesota and Oregon already are testing technology to keep track of mileage. Other states, including Washington and Nevada, are preparing similar projects.

The efforts are being prompted by the fact that gasoline taxes no longer provide enough money to pay for roads and bridges — especially when Congress and many state legislatures are reluctant to increase taxes imposed on each gallon. The federal tax of 18.4 cents a gallon hasn’t been raised in nearly two decades. More than half the states have not raised their gas tax this millennium. Fuel-efficiency also is behind the efforts. Electric-powered vehicles are growing in numbers. In 2009, President Obama set the nation’s most aggressive fuel-efficiency standards for new vehicles, ordering a 40% increase by 2016.

“As the (national vehicle) fleet becomes more fuel efficient … we’re going to lose a lot of revenue from the gas tax. If it’s not replaced, we’re going to see our transportation infrastructure deteriorate,” says Joshua Schank, president of the non-partisan Eno Center for Transportation in Washington, D.C. He expects to see a state vehicle miles-traveled (VMT) tax within the next five to 10 years…

The greatest obstacle to a miles-traveled tax has been privacy concerns. When Oregon ran a pilot program six years ago, motorists’ major objection was to in-vehicle boxes used to track miles driven, says James Whitty of the Oregon Department of Transportation. “They didn’t like the government boxes. They didn’t like the GPS mandate,” he says…

In Minnesota, 500 volunteers in largely urban Hennepin and mostly rural Wright counties have been testing a system using software installed on smartphones, says Chris Krueger, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “We can collect trip info and be able to simulate what it would be like to have a mileage-based user fee,” she says.

This blog has covered this issue before here, here, and here. This is a classic case of unintended consequences: trying to improve fuel efficiency may be a good goal but it has revenue ramifications.

Several thoughts about these pilot studies:

1. If citizens say they don’t like the programs, will that matter in the long run? States still need revenue whether drivers like the method of getting that revenue or not.

2. I haven’t seen this addressed: would drivers continue to pay a gasoline tax as well as a miles-driven tax? We are a long way from even a sizeable majority of people owning electric cars. How would you balance the two taxes to insure certain levels of revenue?

3. This is somewhat tongue in cheek but would you prefer to have the government tracking you by in-vehicle GPS or your smartphone? Or in Illinois and other similar states, by your toll transponder? Remember, you may not be able to answer “none of the above.”

4. Is a vehicles miles-traveled tax something that could get a politician voted out of office? Americans do like their freedom to drive…without considering how much it costs all-around.

h/t Instapundit

Federal budget issue: increased fuel effiency, reduced revenues from the gasoline tax

Amidst discussions about infrastructure and the price of gasoline, Obama’s administration has called for an increase in transportation spending. But where exactly the money will come from to fund this increase is unclear:

[Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood] said Obama is not in favor of raising the gas tax in a “lousy economy.”

The new tax would be necessary, in part, because the gasoline tax used to fund the highway trust fund is collecting less revenue than projected due to increasing fuel efficiency.

The exchange between Sessions and LaHood degenerated into a shouting match, with the Transportation secretary emphasizing that infrastructure can be improved and jobs created while paying down the debt.

This is one negative consequence of increased fuel efficiency: less gasoline will be purchased so without a gas tax increase, revenue from this source falls. This might call for some new ways to derive tax revenue from driving. How about more tolls? Or taxing drivers per mile driven?