Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax: searching for a way to pay for Biden’s infrastructure plan

The President’s American Jobs Plan proposes $621 billion dollars for road and bridge infrastructure but a key debate for lawmakers will be how to pay for it.

The Bipartisan Policy Center is calling on Congress to implement a vehicle miles traveled tax, to boost the Highway Trust Fund and modernize the system as more electric vehicles take to the road.

Utah Department of Transportation Executive Director, Carlos Braceras says that moving to VMT technology can benefit producers.

According to Braceras, “With technology option, you would have to ability to-- say you own a large ranch or a farm, a lot of fuel is expended in the operations of those. Why would we as a government charge people for driving those miles on those non-public roads?”

Michelle Godfrey, Oregon Department of Transportation Outreach Coordinator, says that one of the top concerns they hear is that rural drivers drive more miles and would be disadvantaged. So, the department commissioned a study with Oregon State University.

“We learned that they don’t. What happens is that rural drivers drive more miles per trip, they just take them less frequently, whereas an urban driver might go to the store, five miles away, maybe three to four times a week,” Godfrey explains.

Other research explored the transparency of both the gas tax and mileage system.

“Our research shows that 60 percent of people don’t even know that they are paying a gas tax, how transparent is that,” she states. “So, with road charging, you get a statement of how much you are paying, you know how much every trip costs, and it becomes personal for you.”

Braceras also says that privacy will be an important concern to address with drivers, as the Utah Department of Transportation works to determine what types of technology would be used to track road miles.

“If it’s technology-based, how are we going to protect private information? How are we going to keep that confidentiality that Americans expect because they do not want the government tracking them. And so, finding a way to, first, lead with the principle that we respect personal information and that privacy aspect is important,” he adds.

Eight states, including Oregon and Utah, already have mileage tax pilot programs and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has been open on the idea of exploring a federal program.


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