The assessment of a gas tax and the role it plays in a state's transportation and overall budgets has been a topic of discussion for a while, and Virginia state governor Bob McDonnell is the latest to offer up another way to secure more revenue from the state's residents to pay for their roads and public transportation. McDonnell's proposal would eliminate Virginia's 17.5-percent gas tax entirely, with funds for infrastructure projects coming from an increase in the sales tax from five percent to 5.8 percent and an annual $100 fee assessed on drivers of alternative-fuel and hybrid vehicles. He would leave in place the tax on diesel fuel, and naturally, the federal gas tax would remain untouched.

Much of the response to the proposal has been, "Um... what?" – as well as "bad policy," "a no-brainer for dumb idea of the week" and "'bold' and 'unprecendented." McDonnell is right to suggest that a possible response to "any innovative and comprehensive transportation plan" is dislike. Still, we think there are holes in parts of his plan. Virginia's gas tax is already one of the lowest in the nation, doesn't rise with inflation and hasn't been increased since 1986. According to McDonnell, the revenue from it has 45 percent less purchasing power now than it did 27 years ago, so "It's a tax that's losing its value every year."

Raising it, or getting it adjusted to inflation, is for some reason not on the menu. The 0.8-percent bump in the sales tax would bring in $600 million more per year than the current gas tax does, yet to eliminate the gas tax entirely seems a bit much; it might not pay as much as it used to, but its still a pretty fair and direct usage fee, so why not take advantage of whatever it can provide?

On top of that, to jettison the gas tax but then tax owners of alternative-fuel and hybrid vehicles because "these vehicles generate little federal gas tax revenue and therefore need to contribute their share to fund the roads they use" seems disingenuous. That means the SUV buyer pays for roads at the cash register, while the Honda Insight buyer has to chip in at the register and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

And on top of all that, the move to a sales-tax funded transportation infrastructure unlinks the "fair share" argument from "the roads they use." People who buy more goods will pay more for their roads, not necessarily people who use the roads more. It's only a proposal at the moment so it has a way to go before becoming law, our guess is that it will have a long fight as well.


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  • 202 Comments
      • 1 Year Ago
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      Matthew Fensterwald
      • 1 Year Ago
      I live in northern Virginia, and bob is out of touch. I fill up twice a month, at 16 gallons. That's around 2.50 extra a tank, but that's is only roughly 65 dollars in gas tax revenue. Why are the ev and hybrids being assessed a 100 fee for not burning as much fossil fuel. Think about it. FYI, I drive a 2003 tdi so I'm out of luck anyway.
      The Other Bob
      • 1 Year Ago
      The idea is to pay for the impact you have on the roads. Typically heavier cars did more damage and those who drove more, used more gas, so a gas tax made sense for paying for roads. To include electrics (which aren't a significant part of the car population yet) you would need to have a fee based on weight, miles driven or tolls. Everything else is less fair if we want some sort of road-using fee.
      jvanbrecht
      • 1 Year Ago
      This would not work at all.. I live in MD, and work in VA. Many in the DC metro area work in the neighboring areas. I spend a good portion of my commute in DC and VA, yet based on this new method of taxes I would pay nothing. Granted, I do not often fill up in VA simply due to the fact that gas is around 50c cheaper at the station near my house, but I do use it when I run low (which is often.. I drive an AMG), enough to get me home anyways. Now I am not advocating a use tax (similar to the way London charges their congestion tax), which DC has been toying with for years. As a side note, if VA gas tax is so low, then why is the gas their so much more expensive then MD and in some parts of DC, which has rediculous prices.... Are the stations there charging a higher profit?
      Rob J
      • 1 Year Ago
      So... He wants to tax people who work from home/take the bus/ride a bike with a system that is objectively worse than the status quo? Gas taxes are NOT a perfect way to tax those who use the roads most, but they are damned better than basing how much you pay for infrastructure on how much you spend on all goods.
      IOMTT
      • 1 Year Ago
      Even more reason to buy my gas in VA given the options of WV or MD. There are times VA is already 20 to 40 cents a gallon cheaper even before this possible tax elimination.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        • 1 Year Ago
        [blocked]
        Ryth
        • 1 Year Ago
        It's called a value added tax. If you have the disposable income to be buying things all the time other then necessities like fuel/food, then you can afford the increase in sales tax. That's the point. Those that don't have a lot if any disposable income need all the breaks they can get. Those that are going out shopping every weekend, eating out, movies, etc can afford an increase in sales tax. Those that have to commute to their jobs are doing a necessity. Lower income individuals would save around $5 a gallon per fill up on a 15 gallon tank. That's $20 a month if they fill up 4 times. For someone who has an hourly job, that's money that can go to a utility bill, groceries, etc.
          peaceinmiddleeast
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ryth
          I come from a 6 member household in a working class neighborhood. My family had more expenses, on food, fuel, clothes, utilities etc. and would suffer under this proposal. Your mistaken because more expenses does not equal more disposable income
          Ryth
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ryth
          Expenses arent the same as disposable income first and foremost. You need to learn that difference. Food purchases aren't taxed (Grocery). Fuel wouldn't be taxed. Utilities wouldn't be taxed under this proposal. Do you know the difference between a SALES tax vs other taxes? This affects PURCHASES that you basically might not need. Sure clothes are a need but you don't have to buy expensive ones if you don't have the money. And the amount of money you'd save in gas would offset any clothing tax that is added unless you are buying ridiculously expensive items.
      • 1 Year Ago
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        alistair.dillingham
        • 1 Year Ago
        Go away, clown.
          alistair.dillingham
          • 1 Year Ago
          @alistair.dillingham
          AND BTW, FORD FUTURE RETARD: In case you thought that I am a republican, you are SADLY MISTAKEN. I have been a registered DEM ALL M Y LIFE. BUT I am not like YOU or Pelosi or Reid, of course. I voted for CLINTON, who is not an econ illiterate like YOU. But I SURE never voted for a DEM SINCE. NOT the GORON, NOT the pathetic KERRY, and sure not the clueless socialist 'community organizer" and his senile VP!
          tump
          • 1 Year Ago
          @alistair.dillingham
          We're not buying the act.
        gop.hates.america
        • 1 Year Ago
        Taxing poor people is Republican solution to everything.
          EZEE
          • 1 Year Ago
          @gop.hates.america
          The bottom 47% pay no income taxes
        • 1 Year Ago
        [blocked]
      Charles Chen
      • 1 Year Ago
      Step 1: Get rid of gas tax Step 2: Infrastructure falls into disrepair Step 3: Blame the government "See, government can't do anything right!" Step 4: Sell infrastructure to private companies who implement toll collection Step 5: ... Step 6: Profit
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Charles Chen
        [blocked]
      gop.hates.america
      • 1 Year Ago
      To sum it up, here's how VA will collect taxes to maintain its roads: If you own a Hummer, you pay less taxes If you own a Prius, you pay more taxes If you don't own any car, you pay more taxes ... and remember - these taxes are collected specifically to maintain roads. Thanks GOP. Your proposal makes perfect sense.
      Cavey
      • 1 Year Ago
      At least I won't have to look for the sign that tells me I am In Virginia anymore, the bumps and potholes will let me know when I am crossing the state line.
        dreadcthulhu01
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Cavey
        It is not like any state government creates a lock-box with fuel-tax funds, only spending them on the roads; instead the money goes into a general fund, which then gets doled out however the state legislature wants too. Since the proposed sales tax increase more than offsets the loss of the gasoline tax, if anything with more money to spend Virginia will have better roads, not worse.
      nsxrules
      • 1 Year Ago
      That is an EXCELLENT plan, Kudos to Bob McDonnell, you sir are a true patriot! Hopefully he goes through with it and other states follow suit.
        mkivtrd
        • 1 Year Ago
        @nsxrules
        nsxrules, nice to see someone here with common sense. I agree with you 100%. The "sheep" in this country have been lead to believe that ever increasing taxes to fund an expanding and wholly inefficient government addicted to tax payer's money is a good thing.
          Cayman
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mkivtrd
          If I read the article correctly, he isn't proposing removing or even reducing taxes. He's just transfering the tax from a fixed gas tax to an increase in the sales tax. Which (per the article) would be a $600M/year INCREASE in tax. It helps if you read the article and not just the title.
        SloopJohnB
        • 1 Year Ago
        @nsxrules
        Sarcasm spoiler...
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