Proposal Would Offer Grants for States to Test Road Use-VMT Tax

These drivers could be paying a per-mile tax instead of a per-gallon gas tax. Image -

These drivers could be paying a per-mile tax instead of a per-gallon gas tax. Image –

It’s time the federal government get serious look at implementing a Road Use Charge and charging drivers per mile (aka VMT tax ). The action is necessary, Rep. Earl Blumenauer says, because the “infrastructure deficit” is just as important as the budget deficit.

Fixing the infrastructure deficit requires both a long term and short term fix. To address the former, Blumenauer introduced a bill requiring a detailed study of mileage-based fee systems (HR 3638).

[To address the short-term funding challenge, Rep. Blumenauer wants Congress to increase the federal gas tax by fifteen cents over three years. See our story, "Bold Proposal Offers Short-Term Fix to Transportation Funding."]

The ”Road Usage Fee Pilot Program Act of 2013″ would establish a competitive grant program to enable willing states to choose and test how to charge for road use. The program builds off the successful series of tests conducted by Oregon.

[Read the text of HR 3638 or track the bill’s progress at Open Congress.]

Blumenauer has advocated for more serious work on a Road Use Charge going back to at least 2009.

The pilot studies would address the following concerns:

(1)  Protection of personal privacy.

(2) Ease of public compliance.

(3) Level of public acceptance.

(4) Geographic and income equity.

(5) Integration with State and local transportation revenue mechanisms.

(6) Administrative issues.

(7) Cost.

(8) Enforcement issues.

(9) Potential for fraud or evasion.

(10) Feasibility of implementation.

The bill also requires that after grants awarded, an interim progress report must be issued within two years, and a final report within four years.

[See our story "Vehicle-Miles Tax on Rural Drivers: Everything You Believe May Be Wrong."]

The bill also states that pilot studies having the following characteristics will receive priority for funding:

(1)  serve as a model for broad implementation of a mileage-based fee system;

(2) address concerns of rural and urban user equity;

(3) involve multistate projects;

(4) have a high volume of enrolled vehicles;

(5) integrate with State and local revenue systems;

(6) integrate with local demand management plans;

(7) are likely to lead to implementation of mileage-based fee systems, dependent on the results of the program;

(8) integrate with other intelligent transportation system technologies; and

(9) test the proposed revenue collection system by collecting and distributing revenue.


Learn more:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer promotes legislation enabling VMT pilot studies (May 2013 USA Today story).

Alternative Approaches to Highway Funding,” Congressional Budget Office, March 2011

The Hill’s story about CBO report: “CBO: Taxing mileage a ‘practical option’ for revenue enhancement

Can a miles-traveled tax finance infrastructure?” Politico, February 2013

Robert Poole argues a VMT/Road Use tax is fairer and smarter in this pro/con opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal: “Is Raising the Federal Gasoline Tax the Best Way to Pay for Highways?