Gas tax revenues, an important part of how we fund highways, have been declining along with fuel consumption. Officials wondering how to plug the gap have floated the idea of “vehicle miles traveled” tax, which would basically charge you for each mile of road you use.
Andrew Austin reports that Senate Transportation Chair Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) has declared that idea dead for now. And that’s good news.
The point of a VMT tax is that it raises revenue while discouraging driving. But consider:
- A gas tax also discourages driving.
- A gas tax encourages use of fuel-efficient vehicles
- A gas tax requires no new bureaucracy to implement.
- A gas tax does not require the government to track your movements with a transponder. I’m not really into tinfoil hats but this seems unnecessarily intrusive.
It may be that the revenue isn’t adequate, but there’s a simple solution: raise the gas tax. It may be that in the far future most vehicles won’t burn gasoline. But I’m not holding my breath, and we can address that problem if and when it occurs.
On a related note, USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood agrees with me. More on the meeting that spurred this comment after the jump.
Also during the meeting, a legislature-sponsored study said nice things about using tolling to fund transit. As for other funding sources, Austin reports:
On a less optimistic note the funding report does not propose any new, significant, or sustainable funding sources for transit. In terms of additional local options the only tools they recommend is a .1% extension in local sales tax and a $2 per month employer tax. We are hearing from transit agencies that they are no interest [sic] in getting more sales tax authority being that it is a regressive, volatile unsustainable funding source.
“Sustainable funding source” is probably code for MVET, as a high-earners income tax would also be a very volatile funding source. To be fair, Page 107 of the report does suggest a higher vehicle license fee as one “medium-term” solution.