Simple implementation of VMT tax

Electric cars don’t consume gasoline and therefore owners of electric cars will generally contribute less to the general road maintenance fund because they aren’t paying a gasoline tax. A bill introduced to the state Senate attempt to put a bandaid on this problem by requiring that electric car owners pay an annual $100 fee. While the general idea that electric car owners should contribute to the road maintenance fund is sound, the method is kind of stupid. A far better solution is a vehicle miles traveled tax. Gas mileage in automobiles varies so dramatically that owners are already paying disproportionate amounts of gas tax.

The vehicle miles traveled tax could be implemented in a fairly practical manner using existing systems in place. The idea would be to charge owners based on the number of miles they drove and the weight of their car. The combination of those two factors more accurately reflects the impact each car has on the road network. To implement this, simply have every car owner annually or biannually submit their current mileage to the State of Washington. This can be done each time the license tabs need renewing, and can be checked by the state during each emissions test and each time the title is transferred.

If it turns out people aren’t truthful enough, then we’d need to require additional checks to a car’s mileage by the state. In the long run, maybe something like wireless OBD can automatically verify the vehicle’s mileage.

The bottom line is that I think we’re at a stage where VMT can and should be implemented.

4 thoughts on “Simple implementation of VMT tax”

  1. I think there is a good case to be made for leaving electric cars tax free in the short term as an incentive. At some point it will have to change but in the short term I like to think of the gas tax as a sin tax.

  2. I completely agree. Don’t implement a VMT tax for a couple of years (I’m sure it would take that long to implement anyway), but keep (or even raise) the gas tax over that same period. The net effect would be to strongly incentivize electric vehicles in the short term, and maintain a moderate incentive in the long term.

  3. I just listened to a good interview with WA Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. She basically said the gas tax is dead. But she is hoping the feds will take the lead replacing it. She was talking about a 10-15 year time frame.

    One thing she brought up that couldn’t be handled by your simple proposal is variable mileage rates for urban and rural roads. To handle that it would probably require GPS enabled transponders.

  4. VMT was discussed on PBS radio today. I think it’s an idea that has merit and hope to see some implementation in the not too distant future.

    However, I often hear in discussions about transportation, oil, and electric cars, similar references to people who do not have electric or hybrid cars. These all tend to paint those people as being in need to the right “incentive” to make this purchase, when in truth this is not the case. There are many people who simply do not have the cash to make such a purchase, and either do not have access to the credit to do so, or do not want to incur new debt as their resources are already stretched thin. Not only will no amount of incentives not change that, but sometimes those incentives end up an ‘expense as punishment’ for non-compliance. I would not want to see something with this kind of potential become that (for anyone).

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