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February 06, 2009 01:42 AM UTC

Why mileage fees are DOA?

  • by: indipol

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Actually, I have no idea why mileage fees are DOA, but according to state GOP reps, they are.  Colorado Matters ran a story this morning on the idea of mileage taxes replacing fuel taxes to pay for highway construction and maintenance.  The idea is being passed around in CO, and Colorado Matters looked at Oregon for an example of where they worked.  The story interviewed Penry, who said:

Taxing vehicles every time a tire turns is a non-starter, that I don’t think the public has any support or desire to go down that road.

…ostensibly (as explained by Ryan Warner, the show’s host) because rural drivers drive longer distances.

If the GOP were smart they’d take exactly the opposite position.

Highway/road funding is one of those things that make decent policy sense: the users pay for the construction and maintenance, and the usage fee is gradated (more usage = more paid into the kitty).  That’s the smart part.  The dumb part is that on the Federal level and for most of the states, the user fee is tied to gas taxes.  Gas taxes is an imperfect way to gauge actual usage of the system since different vehicles have widely varying fuel efficiencies.

The smarter play would be to calculate actual mileage driven and tax based on a per-mile basis.  Then the heaviest users of the system would clearly pay more, rather than just maybe paying more (if they happen to be driving a vehicle of average or below-average fuel efficiency).

Wake up geniuses!  If you’re driving longer distances, you’re already paying higher (but not disproportionate) fees because you’re buying more gas!  Further, keeping the gas tax means your rural constituents are getting screwed by the city kids that drive hybrids and small cars, who are paying less per mile than your constituents.  If you’re a rural driver, you WANT a mileage tax, because it levels the playing field to actual usage and doesn’t punish you for driving an inefficient vehicle.  

But of course this isn’t about good policy, it’s about partisan bottlenecking, isn’t it?


7 thoughts on “Why mileage fees are DOA?

  1. This is a good idea because it punishes people who buy those “green” cars like the Prius.  That way, people who get better gas mileage can pay their fair share of the gas taxes.

    In Oregon they are using GPS to track where each person has driven and the pump will extract higher taxes if a person drives in peak traffic.  City dwellers will pay the brunt of it.

    Besides, it also allows government to be a silent observer of where you drive and who you visit.  Now that is a comforting thought!

  2. What’s wrong with a gas tax that encourages people to buy more fuel-efficient cars? They’re far from widespread, so the shortfall in funding is not coming from everybody driving a hybrid. It’s coming from the fact that the gas tax is too damn low.

  3. That urban areas have been and still are getting screwed by this logic for years.  All one needs to do is look back at the proposed distribution of funds from the Federal bailout proposed.  The metro area, which has 55% of the state’s population gets something like 20% of these dollars.  This is the way it always is and has been for many, many years.  The rural areas have been selling the snake oil longer drives in the rural areas for years.  It’s nothing short of BS and the entire front range has been getting screwed, not just denver.  There may be a few rural Democrats who will vote against this, but how many of them are there really.  The urban areas far outnumber them.  I can count 16 Democratic State Senators in the Denver Area alone.  That’s pretty close to what they need anyway.  It’s the same in the House.  I count 27 democratic state Reps in the metro area alone.

    Seems to me the Democrats just need to grow a pair to end this longstanding practice which penalizes all of the front range.

  4. that as fuel efficiency standards increase, less gas will be sold (which is a good thing), but less taxes will be paid (which is a bad thing). So long term public policy dictates that something be done, but couldn’t that be simply raising the fuel tax as needed, commensurate with the loss of revenues due to higher fuel efficiency standards? Talk all you want about plug in electrics and hydrogen cars, but the reality is their numbers are going to be a very small fraction of the overall vehicle fleet on the road for a number of years to come.

    I have no problem with people who have fuel efficient cars paying less per mile in tax with a tax on fuel. That’s as it should be. People who buy gas hogs pay more tax per mile, and because these vehicles are heavier they increase wear on highways.

    Why do we have to get so complicated with this going to a system that requires GPS and micro mileage management? Maybe in 8 to 10 years yes (and the technology to do it then will be more refined), but doing it right now is premature.  

  5. Like the rest of the clusterf*** know as FASTER, this is a way to take the current simple solution to transportation funding, and make it much more bureaucratic, much more expensive, and much more intrusive.

    All that is really needed is a dose of courage and some trust in the public that if you adequately make the case for an increase in gas tax, they will back it.

    1. Lets say they propose it, they make the case, and the voters approve it. Well, then it will be 2010 before we can start seeing any of that income.

      It’s not lack of will, it’s TABOR that forces this approach.

      1. The initiative should have begun two years ago, instead of spending all that time on yet another “Blue Ribbon Panel” that came up with this bureaucratic, balkanized, nightmare.

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