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Should Government Track the Miles You Drive?

Terence P. Jeffrey on

"What about a mileage-based tax?" Tausche asked Buttigieg.

This is a tax the government would charge a person for every mile they drive.

"I think that shows a lot of promise," said Buttigieg.

"If we believe in that so-called user-pays principle, the idea that part of how we pay for roads is you pay based on how much you drive, the gas tax used to be the obvious way to do it," he said. "It's not anymore.

"So, a so-called vehicle-miles-traveled tax, or mileage tax, whatever you want to call it, could be the way to do it," Buttigieg said.

But how would the government know how many miles you drove?

 

On Feb. 26, 2009, an entity called the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission submitted a report to then-newly inaugurated Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Its congressionally mandated job was "to assess future federal highway and transit investment needs, evaluate the future of the federal Highway Trust Fund, and explore alternative funding and financing mechanisms for surface transportation."

The commission recommended that the federal government establish a "vehicle miles traveled," or VMT, taxing system for cars.

"The Commission cast a wide net, reviewed many funding alternatives, and concluded that indeed the most viable approach to efficiently fund federal investment in surface transportation in the medium to long run will be a user charge system based more directly on miles driven (and potentially on factors such as time of day, type of road, and vehicle weight and fuel economy) rather than indirectly on fuel consumed," said its report.

"However much revenue Congress decides to raise at the federal level, the Commission believes it is critical to move forward with a VMT fee system," its report concluded.

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