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State To Consider Charging Drivers by Mile Instead of Gas Tax?

WA state will test pilot program in 2017 (Getty Images)
WA state will test pilot program in 2017 (Getty Images)

Perhaps it’s from the severe beating legislators are taking over continually raising the WA state gas tax, or another influence of a Governor who wants to his legacy to be that of the “greenest” in U.S. history. Either way, this idea is sure to meet resistance on the East side.

Beginning in the fall of 2017, the WA State Transportation Commission is going to launch a volunteer pilot program, where 2,000 people will test the idea of being charged by the mile rather than pay gas taxes at the pump.

The idea would charge drivers by road usage, rather than paying the current $.49.4 cent state gas tax that’s plopped on top of each gallon we pump. Currently, when you add in the federal taxes on top of state, Washington has the THIRD highest gas tax in the U.S., even ahead of New York. Ours combined is a whopping $.62.9 cents per gallon according to bankrate.com.

According to the Transportation Commission, by the year 2035 revenue from gas taxes will fall by at least 45%, because of increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles. Even large full size trucks are now capable of getting 22-26 MPH on the highway, some smaller commuter sedans are in the upper 30 to 40 mph range.

Officials are also eyeing possible new fees for drivers of electric and possibly hybrid vehicles, because they contribute very little to the gas tax, which is used to help maintain roads.  Electric owners do pay a $150 registration fee that combustion cars don’t, but officials say it’s very small compared to the amount of lost revenue from these vehicles. State leaders say the revenue won’t be enough to keep up with maintenance and road development needs.

Critics say it’s just another way that shortsighted public officials are scrambling to try to increase revenues, and should have seen this coming years ago when the big popular push was fuel efficiency and ‘environmentally’ friendly vehicles.

One of the sticking points of the idea is how drivers will be monitored. The Commission has received a lot of resistance to the idea of using GPS to ‘monitor’ how many miles a person drives, but especially their whereabouts.

According to Reema Griffith, the Executive Director of the Commission:

“The notion of government monitoring your numbers of miles is troubling to a lot of people, for this to move forward, we’ve got to recognize this is not a one-size-fits-all system.”

 

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