On Friday, the "yes we can" president said "no we won’t" to implementing a mileage tax for drivers. The president’s Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, was interviewed on Thursday by the Associated Press, in which he suggested that the current administration look into moving away from the current gasoline tax and transition into a system of being taxed on the actual number of miles you drive.
The gasoline tax that you pay every time you fill up goes to paying the federal portion of highway and bridge construction projects throughout the country. With the current trend of Americans driving fewer miles and purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles, the gasoline tax is generating fewer funds these days. Not to mention that when the price of gas went up, the cost of construction materials and the cost to deliver them also went up. The money generated by the gas tax just doesn’t buy what it used to when it comes to road construction.
In the interview, Secretary LaHood (pictured above) said, "We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled."
When the president’s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about LaHood’s comments on a vehicle mileage tax, he said, "It is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration."
Currently, Idaho, North Carolina and Massachusetts are looking at ways to implement such a tax.
The most popular idea right now involves using GPS technology in every vehicle to track how many miles you drive, what type of roads, whether primary or secondary, you drive on, and whether or not you’re driving in peak or off-peak times. The data collected by the equipment would be downloaded into the system. For now, this would be most likely at a gas station. The states would determine what amount of tax you would have to pay based on these driving statistics. If you have a long commute to work and it is typically during rush hour, you could pay more tax than someone who works the overnight shift at a plant five minutes from his or her house.
Critics feel that this mileage-based system doesn’t offer any incentive for driving more fuel-efficient vehicles. Also, there are major privacy concerns as most drivers might have a problem with a device in their car tracking their every move while they drive. There is another problem. How does the government ensure the tracking equipment is not tampered with? These issues will need to be worked out if this will ever be implemented.
Rob Atkinson, chairman of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, the commission that is tasked with determining future funding options for transportation projects, said transitioning to a mileage tax system would take about a decade.
The federal and state governments are also taking a look at other alternative funding options such as an increase in toll roads and more public-private business partnerships.
Image via dot.gov.