Vehicle Miles Traveled tax, or VMT, is the latest way states are looking to make up for falling gas tax revenue. Combine demand for gasoline falling, and more fuel efficient vehicles, and the result is less money the tax man can collect. Those revenues are the primary way states pay for maintaining their roads, highways, and bridges.
According to CNBC, Joshua Schank, president and CEO of the ENO Center for Transportation in Washington, D.C., the government is trying to figure out new ways to tax everyone instead of cutting spending:
“The VMT is likely the way states will raise money in the future for their roads and infrastructure. The states aren’t yet to the point where they’ve figured out exactly how to implement the VMT, but they’ll get there.”
This is not just some future idea. Less than a month ago, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) proposed a bill into the House that would, if passed, implement a pilot program to test the feasibility of a Vehicle Miles Traveled tax as a supplemental source of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund.
Starting in February the state of Washington will tax electric vehicle owners $100 per year for the privilege of traveling green in their state. It’s estimated there are a little more than 1,500 electric cars in Washington. It’s possible that other states may adopt such measures, perhaps even extending the tax to cover gas-using hybrids.
Former Massachusetts Transportation Secretary James Aloisi said the state needs to make dramatic changes in order to make up its $1 billion transportation budget shortfall. According to WBUR, he suggests increasing the Massachusetts state gas tax or implementing a Vehicle Miles Traveled tax:
“People need to come to grips with a few realities. There’s no commodity that anyone buys in Massachusetts that hasn’t gone up in price since 1991 or gone up with inflation. Number two, we’ve created an entirely inequitable approach to transportation financing by forcing fare increases on transit riders and keeping vehicular motorists free from sharing the burden. We need to understand that our future in terms of energy security, in terms of environmental protection, in terms of mobility depends upon a more realistic and honest appraisal of the cost of vehicular mobility and the way it is dragging us down in many ways.”
Their “more realistic and honest” solution according to our dear government is to install GPS equipment on all vehicles and track the number of miles they travel on state roads. Car owners would then be assessed a fee based upon their mileage and whether they traveled in a rural or urban area. Urban dwellers would pay higher costs while rural areas may be assessed a flat fee. I’m assuming this would allow them to get rid of tollbooths, which reduces traffic bottlenecks, and also takes away some jobs, which reduces a large government expense.
But besides the financial side of this discussion there is the privacy issues involved. I’m pretty sure the ACLU would object to Big brother knowing we’re everyone is at any given moment. Although, it could be said we’re already there since the GPS units in smart phones relays a fairly detailed record to your phone company, which can be accessed by police in order to determine when and where you were.
What do you think about the Vehicle Miles Traveled tax and the entailed invasion of our privacy?