States looking for ways to repair roads without raising gas tax

Several states are exploring ways of taxing motorists based on the number of miles driven per year as fuel efficiency has outpaced the federal gasoline tax, according to a USA Today story.

Minnesota and Oregon launched programs that track the miles driven by motorists via a GPS-equipped phone or similar device. Nevada and Washington are ready to launch a pilot program to test the states’ own vehicle miles-travel tax.

Politicians are struggling to figure out a way to adequately fund state and federal road and bridge repairs for the future. The federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents hasn’t been increased in nearly two decades, and few politicians seem eager to increase it.

Increased fuel efficiency has also reduced the amount of money collected by the federal and state gasoline tax. Also, politicians will soon have to figure out a way to fairly tax electric vehicles.

The vehicle miles-travel tax seems to be one route many states, including Texas, have explored.

Under the system, drivers would be charged based on the number of miles driven per year. The mileage would be tracked via a GPS-equipped phone or similar device.

Josh Schank, president of the non-partisan ENO Center for Transportation, told USA Today that he expects to see a state vehicle miles-traveled tax within five to 10 years.

“As the (national vehicle) fleet becomes more fuel efficient…we’re going to lose a lot of revenue from the gas tax,” he told the newspaper. “If it’s not replaced, we’re going to see our transportation infrastructure deteriorate.”

But drivers have been wary of a vehicle miles-tax because of the inherit privacy concerns.

Some states are exploring using the car’s onboard technology to remotely send the data to officials or using a pre-pay or unlimited mileage system. James Whitty, a manager at the Oregon Department of Transportation, said wrote in a Bloomberg column that officials must do something to fund future infrastructure.

He wrote the system could eventually tailored into an easy and simple process for drivers.

“Paying the mileage tax could be as simple as paying a utility bill,” Whitty wrote.

But jumping from the state to the federal level might be a bit too difficult.

Politicians have been uneasy to discuss it on the federal level.