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Replace the Gas Tax with Tolls: A more sensible, efficient way to make sure road users pay.
National Review ^ | 03/11/2014 | Michael Barone

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 president’s powers: transportation.

He mentioned the most common form of transportation — auto travel over streets and highways — only in passing. Instead, he hailed St. Paul’s “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. That’s 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 driver’s 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. Obama’s solution in St. Paul — “simplifying the tax code” — doesn’t 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 Foundation’s 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 California’s 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.

That’s 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.

It’s time to pay for highways not at the gas pump but through the transponder.

— Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examine


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: gastax; infrastructure; tolls

1 posted on 03/11/2014 7:41:11 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Hell NO.


2 posted on 03/11/2014 7:43:15 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks (Rip it out by the roots.)
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To: SeekAndFind
What will happen to all the "special" projects funded with gas tax money that have nothing to do with roads or vehicular transportation?

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.

3 posted on 03/11/2014 7:44:04 AM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (If Barack Hussein Obama entertains a thought that he does not verbalize, is it still a lie?)
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To: SeekAndFind

Idiocy.

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.


4 posted on 03/11/2014 7:44:08 AM PDT by INVAR ("Fart for liberty, fart for freedom and fart proudly!" - Benjamin Franklin)
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To: SeekAndFind

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.


5 posted on 03/11/2014 7:45:53 AM PDT by SolidRedState (I used to think bizarro world was a fiction.)
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To: SeekAndFind

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?


6 posted on 03/11/2014 7:47:20 AM PDT by mountainlion
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To: SeekAndFind

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?


7 posted on 03/11/2014 7:48:59 AM PDT by DManA
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To: SeekAndFind

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.


8 posted on 03/11/2014 7:56:13 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: SeekAndFind

This makes no sense. Those who use the roads most use the most gas.


9 posted on 03/11/2014 7:56:36 AM PDT by FatherofFive (Islam is evil and must be eradicated)
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To: Buckeye McFrog

Thread winner. No further comments needed.


10 posted on 03/11/2014 7:57:37 AM PDT by Black Agnes
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To: FatherofFive

Does a Prius pay it’s fair share?


11 posted on 03/11/2014 7:57:46 AM PDT by bert ((K.E. N.P. N.C. +12 ..... History is a process, not an event)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks

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.


12 posted on 03/11/2014 8:02:15 AM PDT by Gaffer (Comprehensive Immigration Reform is just another name for Comprehensive Capitulation)
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To: SeekAndFind

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.


13 posted on 03/11/2014 8:04:15 AM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: SeekAndFind

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...


14 posted on 03/11/2014 8:07:07 AM PDT by Yo-Yo (Is the /sarc tag really necessary?)
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To: bert
Does a Prius pay it’s fair share?

There is tax on electricity usage.

15 posted on 03/11/2014 8:14:17 AM PDT by FatherofFive (Islam is evil and must be eradicated)
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To: SeekAndFind
I am disappointed by the usually sensible Barone. This is the problem:They....can be adjusted to reflect the cost of maintenance and improvements.

It is the 'adjustment' that worries me.

16 posted on 03/11/2014 8:14:22 AM PDT by expat2
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To: Gaffer

There is already a Rain Tax in MD.


17 posted on 03/11/2014 8:16:19 AM PDT by expat2
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To: FatherofFive

That tax is on metered juice off the grid. Doesn’t the Prius generate it’s own battery charging juice?


18 posted on 03/11/2014 8:17:36 AM PDT by bert ((K.E. N.P. N.C. +12 ..... History is a process, not an event)
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To: Gaffer
Roads are not taxed, but should be, or rather should have user fees associated so government recovers what it costs to build and maintain them. We would not want the government handing out stuff for free, no?

Gas is taxed, but it is a poor way to pay for roads. The cost of a lane-mile of road varies dramatically, and fuel economy varies dramatically between vehicles. Alternative fuels like electric and CNG make this worse.

Just take an odometer reading once a year, factor in vehicle weight, and pay that amount.
19 posted on 03/11/2014 8:18:16 AM PDT by Deek
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To: expat2
They....can be adjusted to reflect the cost of maintenance and improvements.

Or the cost of all those no-show jobs going to Tony Soprano and his crew.


20 posted on 03/11/2014 8:18:21 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: SolidRedState
. . . Limited access points. . .

The overpriced gas and food, and the limited choices at those toll service centers in Pennylvania and Maryland.

21 posted on 03/11/2014 8:18:28 AM PDT by sportutegrl
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To: sportutegrl

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.


22 posted on 03/11/2014 8:27:49 AM PDT by tanknetter
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To: SeekAndFind

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.


23 posted on 03/11/2014 8:27:49 AM PDT by Logical me
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To: SeekAndFind

What universe does Barone live in? Since when have gas taxes been used to construct or repair roads?


24 posted on 03/11/2014 8:30:52 AM PDT by old school
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To: Deek

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.


25 posted on 03/11/2014 8:34:31 AM PDT by Gaffer (Comprehensive Immigration Reform is just another name for Comprehensive Capitulation)
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To: SeekAndFind

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.


26 posted on 03/11/2014 8:41:07 AM PDT by Haiku Guy (Health Care Haiku: If You Have a Right / To the Labor I Provide / I Must Be Your Slave)
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To: Gaffer

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.


27 posted on 03/11/2014 8:44:57 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: expat2

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.


28 posted on 03/11/2014 8:51:21 AM PDT by Haiku Guy (Health Care Haiku: If You Have a Right / To the Labor I Provide / I Must Be Your Slave)
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To: Buckeye McFrog

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.


29 posted on 03/11/2014 8:53:36 AM PDT by Gaffer (Comprehensive Immigration Reform is just another name for Comprehensive Capitulation)
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To: Deek

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?


30 posted on 03/11/2014 8:54:13 AM PDT by punchamullah
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To: Gaffer

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.


31 posted on 03/11/2014 9:12:56 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: bert

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!! :-)


32 posted on 03/11/2014 9:22:59 AM PDT by SgtHooper (If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.)
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To: bert

If a tire touches the road, it is taxed.


33 posted on 03/11/2014 9:23:54 AM PDT by SgtHooper (If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Why not just build roads to last?


34 posted on 03/11/2014 9:34:18 AM PDT by LumberJack53213
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To: Gaffer

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.


35 posted on 03/11/2014 10:32:55 AM PDT by Deek
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To: Eric in the Ozarks

Go green, get a usage tax instead.


36 posted on 03/11/2014 10:33:59 AM PDT by A CA Guy ( God Bless America, God Bless and keep safe our fighting men and women.)
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To: Deek

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.


37 posted on 03/11/2014 10:37:23 AM PDT by Gaffer (Comprehensive Immigration Reform is just another name for Comprehensive Capitulation)
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To: punchamullah
Am I too optimistic in presuming that it would be possible to design and build a tamper-proof odometer?

That is a good question. I am cynical, and cheaters are going to cheat. Those that run farm diesel in their trucks (you know who you are) for example.

I do prefer the odometer option over the "black box" approach that is currently being tested in Oregon. The odometer is cheaper, and less sensitive to snooping or "social engineering" attempts by the government.
38 posted on 03/11/2014 10:38:11 AM PDT by Deek
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To: Haiku Guy

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.


39 posted on 03/11/2014 10:53:07 AM PDT by sportutegrl
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To: SeekAndFind

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.


40 posted on 03/11/2014 10:58:00 AM PDT by Amagi (Lenin: "Socialized Medicine is the Keystone to the Arch of the Socialist State.")
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To: SolidRedState
gas tax....the more you drive the more you pay

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.

41 posted on 03/11/2014 10:59:58 AM PDT by grania
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To: SeekAndFind
Replace the Gas Tax — with Tolls: A more sensible, efficient way to make sure road users pay.

Some people should stick to reviewing new Rap releases.

GRRRRRRRRRRR!
For later.

42 posted on 03/11/2014 1:53:37 PM PDT by publius911 ( At least Nixon had the good g race to resign!)
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To: Yo-Yo
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.

And who will be in charge of writing the software for this brainstorm?

Obama and his Merry Communists?

43 posted on 03/11/2014 1:55:39 PM PDT by publius911 ( At least Nixon had the good g race to resign!)
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To: publius911
And who will be in charge of writing the software for this brainstorm?

Obama and his Merry Communists?

But of course, with a back door for the NSA.

(Some people can't read taglines...)

44 posted on 03/11/2014 2:04:55 PM PDT by Yo-Yo (Is the /sarc tag really necessary?)
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To: SeekAndFind

Tolls haven’t gone over well in GA so far.
Make them mandatory and you’d have a full scale revolution the next day.


45 posted on 03/11/2014 8:47:57 PM PDT by GAFreedom (Freedom rings in GA!)
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