• Apr 27th 2007 at 1:29PM
  • 22

From this article, "U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters says that the federal highway trust fund will lack sufficient funding from taxes beginning in 2009. She has been pressing states to look for alternatives to gasoline taxes. 'The bottom line is that we are spending more than we take in, and we have nearly run through the balances that had built up in the fund,' Ms. Peters told Congress in February. 'The highway funding problem is not going to go away, nor can we put it off until the last minute.' The highway-fund shortage could be exacerbated if Congress raises fuel-economy standards to curb pollution and reduce reliance on foreign oil. Cars with higher fuel economy can travel longer without refueling."

Basically, what is happening is that states are trying to figure out a way to make more money in an effort to keep up their existing roads and to continue to expand on what is already there. The worry is that as cars get more fuel efficient, less money will come in from the gas tax. One potential solution that Oregon and other states are considering is to track the amount of miles a vehicle is driven and tax the vehicle on those miles, not on the amount of gasoline used to refill the tank. While that seems to make a certain amount of sense, opponents to this plan are concerned that consumers will be less inclined to purchase fuel efficient vehicles if it costs less to fill them up, as it would if the gas tax were dropped altogether, as it would under the mileage-based option. Perhaps instead, we should raise the gas tax? Any takers on this one? Here is one! And below you'll find a post with some other ideas about the highway system in America.

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[Source: The Wall Street Journal]



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  • 22 Comments
      • 7 Months Ago
      As I see it there is a two fold problem. We need more efficient cars or at least have people buying more efficient cars so that we have a lower impact on the environment and less use of a depleating asset (oil). Second we need the Highway department to achieve more funds from taxes or some other source. If you make the roads toll roads, then your charging everyone the same whatever they drive. Upping the strait gas tax is only a stopgap measure. We've all noticed that when gas prices go up there is a temporary cessation of non neccesary trips. I believe a betteer methode would be to allocate a certain number of gallons per driver. Once you attain said number of gallons per month your gas price increases exponentially with the number about the proscribed limit. This would have two effects; one it would make people be more conciouse of their car buying proferences and the same of cars on the road would drastically increase in fuel efficient cars. Second, those individuals that just can't part with their gas guzzlers would fund the extension of the highway system. Business or individuals that use there cars for work would have to have their own problems.
      • 7 Months Ago
      No, we shouldn't move to a mileage tax. It won't encourage people to buy more fuel efficient vehicles, it's expensive (each car needs a transponder), and it's invasive.

      As an Oregonian, I had hoped that this idea would die a few years back but they seem to resurrect it every year.

      Raise the gas tax if need be and impose a hefty tax on SUV sales - base it on gross vehicle weight like they do in Washington state. Maybe a carbon tax, but really it would be easier just to raise the gas tax.

      The main problem which causes road deterioration in Oregon is studded snow tires. Maybe we should outlaw studded tires in favor of other traction tire technologies? The fact is that in Western Oregon (where most of the population is) you really only need traction devices 3 or 4 days per winter, but people keep studded tire on from November till April.
      • 7 Months Ago
      I'm with Felkster. It would be so simple to just have your odometer read once a year and taxed accordingly. Plus there can be different rates for different categories, for instance a hybrid can have a lower rate than a gass-guzzler.
      • 7 Months Ago
      What if your annual registration renewal included a component where you reported vehicle mileage (either via a visual check or something electronic and more secure). While it's not an exact science (you may have driven in Canada), it would be a simple, annual method for paying a tax based on the amount you've driven your car.

      While as a hybrid driver I of course want to say "up with the gas taxes", I do agree that those who drive more should pay more. I'm opposed to RFIDs because of "big brother" like Howard said and tolls because they congest already congested roadways.
      • 7 Months Ago
      Increase the tax on gas to compensate for the higher average MPG.
      The more miles driven, the more gas used, the more tax paid. Just like it's always been.
      Drive a gashog, buy more gas, pay more tax. Pay for the luxury.
      Drive a fuel miser, buy less gas, pay less tax. Enjoy an economic benefit.

      Taxing on miles driven would not work. People would find a way to cheat. It would have to be enforced, monitored, which would cost the taxpayer. There's no way to cheat the current system. No enforcement or monitoring needed.

      This is my dream. A smart gas pump would recognize the model of vehicle being fueled and would adjust the tax based upon the fuel efficiency of that model of vehicle. The less fuel efficient, the greater the rate of tax. The more fuel efficient, the lower the rate of tax. If you want to get people out of big cars and into small ones just keep increasing the rate on the gas hogs. Sooner or later even the most obstinate will get the picture.

      Take it a step further and the pump would know the specific vehicle. It could analyze the driving habits of the driver. If it's getting less than the EPA rating, up goes the tax rate, forcing the driver to drive in a more moderate fashion. If it senses inordinate annual miles driven, up goes the tax rate, forcing the driver to cut down on their driving. Conversely, people who get EPA or better or have shown a decrease in their annual miles driven get a break, are rewarded.

      Ultimately the goal would be to get people out of their cars and into public transportation. If people used public transportation there would be no need for new roads and the roads we have would last much longer because they would not be used nearly as much.

      That brings me to the topic of trucks. Greatly increase the road tax on trucks. Use the money to fund the rebuilding of the railway system. Nothing wears out the roads more than trucks. Trucks are also a major cause of traffic congestion. If trucks were off the road traffic would flow much freer and everyone would get better MPG. Trains move cargo much more efficiently than trucks. The rail system could also serve for public transportation.

      I have not yet read the articles referred to in the post or the comments. I just blurted out my opinion as it is. I'll read the articles and comments now.







      • 7 Months Ago
      You could adjust gasoline taxes upward to make up for revenue lost to efficiency, or you could allocate a portion of a general carbon tax. A carbon tax allocation means even a portion of the cost of electricity for plug-in hybrids would help pay for roads. Personally however, I agree with Mr. Harkness that directly paying for use of roads is the smartest way to go. The simplest way to do this is embed an RFID tag in auto license plate registration stickers. Then put transponders on the roads. Take snapshots of vehicles without tags. Instead of yearly registration fee you have a monthly subscription for road use in the state.
      • 7 Months Ago
      idk what the thinking is here? Whats to stop people from just ripping them out?, or hacking the system? This can only go into new cars, unless the force install them into old ones (which would cost money!)... so who wants to buy a new car?!?!? no one. so them the auto companies go out of buisness for good with the billions we dumped into them?! And i heard the want to charge different rates for time of day?? what is that? thats insane.... i'd rather just drive on umaintained dirt roads and through fields than pay these insane taxes just to drive on pavement.
      • 7 Months Ago
      The wear and tear on a road from a given vehicle is proportional to the weight of that vehicle. (Of course, this discounts the effect of freeze/thaw cycles causing additional damage.) Why not have the "road tax" be based on miles driven multiplied by weight of the vehicle? It could also be adjusted for commercial vehicles based on the types of items they carry.
      • 7 Months Ago
      Not a good idea. As many have pointed out, some sort of tracking system would be needed to assess this tax. A simple mileage reading isn't going to do it--what about off-road and out of jurisdiction travel?

      Also, a gas tax already is much more fair--heavier vehicles tend to cause proportionally more wear to the roadway and generally get lower mileage. This encourages efficiency across the board. If you haul on a regular basis, the most efficient 3/4 or one ton diesel is in your interest. If you want to drive an RX-8 every day, you'll certainly pay for the pleasure. Those of us who can't avoid the commute and have sought out efficient transportation for the mission still pay our share, but are rewarded for efficiency.

      A higher gas tax would do the job, and if it's high enough, maybe we will demand more accountability from our state D.O.T.'s and the swindling bastards who let out construction contracts. Off-topic: I don't know about your states, but here in Georgia, it's friggin' criminal the way our recent big construction projects have been executed.

      I don't even want to start in about our state legislature. I think the Iraqi legislature is more effective than our state house right now...
      • 7 Months Ago
      Just increase the gas tax if fuel efficient vehicles are lowering revenue.

      Fuel efficient vehicles are generally lighter and do less wear to the roads so they should pay less than big trucks and vans. Most of the miles driven inside each state will be while burning in-state gas with the corresponding gas taxes.

      Per-mile taxes are a slippery slope at best, and big brother tracking your every move at worst. With a GPS tracker, you would have to retrofit millions of vehicles (high cost), and people could rip them out and leave them at home while they rack up miles (so then you'd have to audit everyone at the end of the year to match the odometer to the GPS data).

      Toll roads with RFID have similar privacy issues and theft issues. Also, toll roads when used should be kept in public control, handing them over to private companies is bad because then they have to make a profit (meaning everyone will pay more than just the cost to build and maintain the road).

      Increasing the gas tax is so simple and can be done virtually overnight. GPS and RFID Transponders are complex, have privacy issues, can be stolen, are costly, and would take years to implement.

      Politicians just don't want to utter the words "raise taxes" even though that's exactly what they would be doing with per-mile taxes (they would set rates to generate more revenue than they are now with gas taxes since they don't have enough through gas taxes).
      • 7 Months Ago
      If the objective is to reduce energy usage (hence reduce dependence on foreign oil), then increase tax on energy usage (gas, electricity, natural gas ...etc)

      If the objective is to reduce congestion and raise funds for road maintainance. Put up toll roads.

      If the objective is both then do both. There's no need to study or debate, both of these systems have been implemented in many countries in the world to meet these objectives. People will not conserve energy without monetary disincentive. The question is do we or our leaders have the will to do this. What's the worse that can come from it... people whining?

      • 8 Years Ago
      I'm seeing a definite increase in toll roads, which I regard as superior to any tax, because it affects only the people that use the roads, and it affects them in direct proportion to the amount of that use.

      With the new toll-tag in common use here in north Texas, you don't even have to stop at the toll booths. I use a toll road for commuting, because the toll cost is more than offset by the savings in time and gasoline over the alternatives available to me.

      If most roads were supported entirely by tolls, people would be made aware of the actual costs of building and maintaining roads, and could modify their behavior accordingly. Plus, EV drivers would have to pay their fair share.

      The only problem is getting government to reduce or eliminate taxes, which doesn't happen very often.
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