As you have probably heard in the news today, the 21st Century Transportation Committee recommended a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax as one option to raise additional revenue for transportation needs.
We here at RCC and Civitas have supported a VMT in the past, but only as a replacement for the gas tax, not in addition to it.
Here's the deal. As we buy more fuel efficient vehicles and as different ways to power automobiles come onto the scene, taxing gasoline is an unsustainable model. Gas tax revenues now are basically flat. Imagine what will happen in 10 or 15 years when cars are powered by hydrogen, or hog waste or whatever else innovation brings.
So as more people have differently powered cars and the cars that run on gas use less and less of it, there has to be some way to pay for roads that accurate reflects how much people use them. That is where the VMT comes in. Instead of paying a tax on gasoline, consumers (drivers) are taxed on how much they use the roads — a true user fee for consuming public goods.
I know many people will want to dismiss the VMT from the start, but give it a chance and read up on it. Check out this report from Oregon where they studied it. The key to this however, is this cannot be a new tax but a replacement for another.
We need to reform the way DOT spends current money before we ever think of giving them more.