Skip to comments.Replace the Gas Tax — with Tolls: A more sensible, efficient way to make sure road users pay.
Posted on 03/11/2014 7:41:11 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Last month, Barack Obama traveled to snowy St. Paul, Minn., the same place where in the sunnier days of June 2008 he predicted that his clinching of the Democratic presidential nomination would be remembered as the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the earth began to heal.
This time in St. Paul he addressed a lesser problem, one within the ambit of a presidents powers: transportation.
He mentioned the most common form of transportation auto travel over streets and highways only in passing. Instead, he hailed St. Pauls spiffy new trains, one of which was derailed downtown two hours later.
But he did make one very practical and sound point. And that is that you have to find a way to pay for these things.
What he failed to mention is that the funding source for federal transportation spending is drying up, in part because of his own policies. Thats the federal gas tax, enacted as part of the Interstate Highway program in 1956 and last raised in 1993.
Gas-tax receipts are on a downward trajectory, for multiple reasons. One reason is that people have been driving less, and not just because of the recession. Average monthly driving, the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center reports, peaked at 900 miles in 2004 and was down to 820 in 2012.
Young people, glued to smart phones and video games, are less likely to drive or even get drivers licenses. Commuting is down, with employment still below pre-recession levels.
And the Obama administration raised gasoline mileage standards to 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016 and 54.5 mpg by 2025 far above the 2013 average of 23 mpg. These sharp increases mean that less gas will be sold and much less revenue will be generated by the 18.4 cent per gallon federal gas tax.
In addition, the government is promoting hybrid and electric cars, whose owners pay less or no gas tax even though they cause wear and tear on highways. Owners of natural-gas vehicles promoted on a bipartisan basis by Senators Jim Inhofe and Carl Levin would pay no gasoline tax at all.
This has left congressional transportation committees in a quandary. Raising the gas tax is considered highly unpopular. Obamas solution in St. Paul simplifying the tax code doesnt seem to be in the cards any time soon.
All of which undermines the argument that the gas tax is a user tax, in which those who use roads tend to pay for them.
Fortunately, there is another and better kind of user tax available. That, as the Reason Foundations Robert Poole has argued, is per-mile tolling.
Poole proposes that limited-access highways interstates and expressways be funded by tolls. He would leave local streets and rural roads to be funded by states and localities.
The technology is available. Transponders are used to assess tolls today in Californias Orange County, Dallas County in Texas, and Northern Virginia. The charges go to your credit card, and you hardly have to slow down through the toll plaza.
Computer-generated tolls are a superior form of user fee. They tie revenues to the highways in proportion to their use, and can be adjusted to reflect the cost of maintenance and improvements.
Per-mile tolling also would eliminate the use of federal-gas-tax funds for ancillary forms of transportation subways, light rail, bike paths and trails which have been gobbling up revenue needed for highways. States and localities valuing such amenities could pay for them.
Tolling would also pay for proper ongoing maintenance. Too often that is left unfunded by local officials or congressmen eager to cut ribbons on new projects.
In addition, per-mile tolling would enable public-private partnerships or private firms to fund construction or operations by borrowing in bond markets instead of paying for future needs out of current funds.
Thats already happening too: The Canadian government is funding the new Detroit River bridge through a public-private partnership.
Private firms would have an incentive to keep roads in good shape. Otherwise, traffic and toll revenues would decline and profits would disappear. And per-mile tolling can also reduce traffic congestion by varying fees according to usage or time of day.
The gas tax worked tolerably well for nine decades. But technological progress, behavioral change, and government mandates have rendered it obsolete.
Its time to pay for highways not at the gas pump but through the transponder.
Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examine
The gas tax is a slush fund. It will never end. They'll just add toll roads to the mix as another way to harvest dollars from the host organisms.
They will erect the tolls and NEVER get rid of the gas tax, and we’ll be stuck with BOTH revenue confiscation schemes by the government.
RULE OF LIFE NO. 1: Government NEVER - EVER limits itself or reduces what it confiscates.
Ridiculous. Gas tax is the fairest way to collect tax if you are going to tax by useage. The more you drive the more you pay.
Toll roads. Limited access points. Only those driving on those roads would pay.
What is wrong with not putting gas tax monies in the general fund and wasting it on pork? Why not build and repair roads with road tax monies?
It might work of you at the same time privatized the stretch of road in question. That’ll never happen.
Also most roads have hundreds and thousands of on grade entrances. How do you practically handle that? Sensors at the end of every driveway?
Step 1 - Require automakers to install GPS tracking systems on all new vehicles.
Step 2 - Pass a law requiring all subsequent data to be turned over to the Federal Government to charge a per-mile tax.
Step 3 - Give access to that data to political hacks like Lois Lerner so that they can use the media to ream the next GOP Presidential Hopeful whose car just happens to turn up in the parking lot of a local brothel.
This makes no sense. Those who use the roads most use the most gas.
Thread winner. No further comments needed.
Does a Prius pay it’s fair share?
If you let them tax the roads you travel; in addition to taxing your income, discretionary spending items, basic staples, your home, your car, your HEALTHCARE; eventually they will be getting around to taxing the air that your breathe.
only the little people will pay that.
the important bureacrats will have no tracking or auto expempt tracking meaning they will never pay. (see vips who are never given a red light ticket)
During WWII all the politicians demanded an exemption card for gas rationing.
Equip every vehicle with a GPS tracking device that uploads its data whenever it passes by prepositioned checkpoints. Then a monthly statement can be sent to the vehicle owner for their share of road maintenance, and what type of road they used.
The Government having a way to track the whereabouts of every vehicle in the country. What could possibly go wrong...
There is tax on electricity usage.
It is the 'adjustment' that worries me.
There is already a Rain Tax in MD.
That tax is on metered juice off the grid. Doesn’t the Prius generate it’s own battery charging juice?
The overpriced gas and food, and the limited choices at those toll service centers in Pennylvania and Maryland.
Don’t forget the one halfway through Deleware on 95. Where on busy weekends they deliberately create slowdowns at the toll plaza into MD to create a big backup that extends right to the rest stop’s entrance ramp.
Although I have to admit that PA has a clever setup where they don’t allow direct access between crossing interstates but make cars get off and drive down a mile or two of local streets lined with gas stations and restaurants before getting back on again.
What a jerk thing to think. EVERYONE IN AMERICA USES THE ROAD. Some don’t drive but buy goods that the road has to be used for them to get it. WHERE DO WE GET THESE FOOLS, I’LL NEVER UNDERSTAND.
What universe does Barone live in? Since when have gas taxes been used to construct or repair roads?
You will never get me to agree to a toll road, EVER.
We spent a lot of blood and tears getting rid of the tolls here on GA 400 that paid for itself several times over. We had to threaten to hang the governor to do it.
The gas tax is 18.4 cents a gallon. My car gets about 30 MPG, so the tax works out to .61 cents per mile, or 163 miles for each dollar of tax.
I live in New Jersey. The New Jersey Turnpike is supported by tolls. To drive from the Delaware Memorial Bridge to Exit 11 (my exit) costs me $7.25 for 90.6 miles, with works out to 8 cents per mile.
So the Turnpike Toll costs me 13.1 times as much as the gas tax!
I have no problem with usage fees instead of gas taxes... tomato/tomahto... But I got a big problem with a 1310% tax increase. And I suspect the usage fees are going to be a lot closer to the NJ Turnpike Tolls than are to the Gas Tax.
We have two recently completed toll roads here in the Pittsburgh area.
They are the most lightly traveled four-lane expressways in the entire region. Virtually nobody drives on them.
The Gas Tax is one tax for the whole country. You try to raise that, and there is a political price to be paid.
But if there are a thousand little road use zones, each with it’s own tax rate, each rate can be raised, little by little, with hardly any objection from the taxpaying population.
So the per mile usage fee will increase exponentially, while the Gas Tax has stayed the same for years. The first person who expresses surprise when this happens should be put up against the wall.
Wherever you see a toll road still in existence, chances are good its original cost has been recouped. In some older eastern seaboard areas, several times over.
One question I always ask about any proponent of toll roads is “can you give me specific example of any case where tolls have ever gone down, particularly for ones where they have been paid for multiple times.” They invariably cannot.
They are an excuse for building a new convenient road and then they mutate into jobs programs and slush funds for politicians. You can see how differing political areas deal with responsibilities (i.e., how much graft and greed there is) by the disrepair on sections of I-285 in Atlanta, for example.
I agree with you about some toll roads not being traveled. The ones I’ve seen around Denver are a good, good example. An excuse for largess to government cloaked in supposed convenience.
I too believe that that would be the simplest and, perhaps, the fairest system.
Am I too optimistic in presuming that it would be possible to design and build a tamper-proof odometer?
When he was our Governor, Fast Eddie Rendell tried to cram down a scheme to throw toll booths up on I-80 so that he could fund his transportation boondoggles with money from those of you who are only passing through PA.
An idea so incredibly illegal, even the Obama Administration could not finagle a way to make it happen.
The people who use the least should also pay at least a minimum fee to “share” the pain! Get em at both ends. We cannot have people not paying taxes!! :-)
If a tire touches the road, it is taxed.
Why not just build roads to last?
I am not trying to get you to agree. I am just pointing out that the current system is socialized: some people get more, others get less for what they pay. Some don’t pay at all.
Go green, get a usage tax instead.
That is true. However there never is a guarantee government will do as they tell us they will. More times than not they lie and steal from us to line their pockets or their crony’s. Promises, oaths and pledges mean nothing except during the course of on 24-48 hour news cycle.
There is a toll bridge across the Mississippi in Louisiana, the Sunshine Bridge. Named after Governor Jimmy Davis, who had a gold record, “You are My Sunshine”. When I was a child, the toll was 35 cents. Today, the toll is a whopping: FREE. After the bridge was paid for, they got rid of the toll.
Raped by taxes already, it sucks on the highway to have to slow down, stop, queue up, crawl through a pay station to throw more money at a government employee.
It depends on gas mileage, too. But it still seems kind of fair. I would think lighter, smaller high MPG cars do less damage to roads than heavier vehicles do.
Some people should stick to reviewing new Rap releases.
And who will be in charge of writing the software for this brainstorm?
Obama and his Merry Communists?
Obama and his Merry Communists?
But of course, with a back door for the NSA.
(Some people can't read taglines...)
Tolls haven’t gone over well in GA so far.
Make them mandatory and you’d have a full scale revolution the next day.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.