Taxing by the mile, not the gallon

Despite recent legislative changes to gas tax transportation funding in Utah, the problems with this once reliable revenue stream will only continue. Pacing with inflation (or lack thereof), more efficient vehicles and hybrids, are only part of the challenge. In response, even more progressive states like Massachusetts and Washington are considering a regressive idea: Taxing by the mile. And Oregon is on it. From Pew’s Stateline Daily:

Taxing by the mile, not the gallon
by Jason Williams (No, that’s not Jason. It’s Don Imus; but who’s keeping track?)

SALEM, Oregon—Evan Burroughs plopped into his 1996 Subaru Outback and pointed to a green plastic box tucked below the steering column. It blinked once. As Burroughs eased the car out of the parking lot and drove toward the highway, the box kept track of his speed and braking, but most importantly, of how many miles he drove.

The green box, part of a pilot program, sends the data to a private contractor like a GPS device manufacturer, which reports the miles to Oregon, which calculates Burroughs’ tax bill—1.5 cents per mile.

As revenue from the standard per gallon gas tax diminishes, states are looking for other ways to pay for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. California recently authorized its own mileage tax pilot project. Between 2008 and 2014, at least 19 states considered 55 measures related to mileage-based fees, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Vermont and Washington enacted bills to study per-mile fees in 2012.

But Oregon is leading the way. Its experiment, OreGO, is the first that involves ordinary citizens. Other states have been watching closely since the program began July 1.

gas-297117_640Intriguing idea for Oregon. But they don’t have our air quality problems. Say you have two Utahns who both drive 15,000 miles per year.

Let’s arbitrarily name them Jason and Mr. Noel.

Jason drives a fuel-efficient hybrid, because he cares about his carbon footprint. Mr. Noel drives a gas guzzling Canyonero Mega-SUV with half inflated “mud flapper” tires because Obummer innit the boss of him!!!!!!1!!!

Under the current fuel tax structure, Jason pays about $75 a year in fuel tax. Mr. Noel pays about $190.

Using a mileage tax, Jason and Mr. Noel pay the same amount in tax because they drive the same mileage.

Should this more broad consideration be a part of transportation funding decisions in Utah, or do we just pour more non-fuel monies (public and private) into increased health costs and filling the revenue gaps as more business moves to places it’s safe to breathe the air?

Innovative and admittedly cool ideas for Oregon might not work as well for Utah.

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