Choose Your Poison: Gas Tax or Mileage Tax
Unless we want the streets of the United States to look like the streets of Michigan, we’ve got to figure out a way to pay for proper infrastructure repair and replacement.
The most logical ways to fund streets are through vehicle registration taxes and gas taxes. The problem, of course, is that both are about as high as they can politically get in most areas while streets and highways continue to crumble. As hard as it is to admit, I believe gas taxes should increase, because it’s the most fair way to evenly distribute how much tax individuals pay. Higher gas prices also will spur drivers to save more fuel and drive less.
But cities in the Bay Area have a different idea.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Association of Bay Area Governments are currently considering a plan to tax drivers by the number of miles driven rather than by the number of gallons burned. To make that possible, registered vehicles would be fitted with a GPS device to track the number of miles traveled by each.
Tax rates could be less than a penny per mile to as much as 10 cents. One estimate puts potential revenue from the system at $15 million per day.
The thing is, a gas tax also charges people per mile driven, just in a less intrusive way. The per-mile tax, though, is an effort to get drivers of electric vehicles to pay their fair share, too. But there are so few EVs out there right now that it doesn’t really matter.
Plus, who wants local governments tracking their every move on GPS? They might say they have no interest in where drivers are going, but the detailed driving habits of millions of people would be a tough temptation to avoid when the advertisers come knocking and are willing to pay big bucks for the info.
Nobody wants to get behind the idea, or even publicly admit it, but we need higher fuel taxes. Whether the taxes are on gasoline, diesel, hydrogen, natural gas or electricity, we should tax whatever powers our cars enough to pay for the streets they drive on. It’s really that simple.
Which would you rather: higher gas taxes or a GPS unit in your car to track and tax the number of miles you drive?