Traffic Around JBLM

Washington state lawmakers will consider a gradual transition from the state’s current gasoline tax to a system that would charge drivers fees based on how many miles they travel.

This comes amid rising concerns over the amount of revenue available to fund transportation and the maintenance of roads and highways due to increasing fuel-efficiency among vehicles, as well as concerns that owners of older and less fuel-efficient vehicles are carrying a larger tax burden.

The House Transportation Committee heard a report Thursday, Jan. 23, from the Washington State Transportation Commission on the feasibility and logistics of a road usage charge program.

Reema Griffith, executive director of the Washington State Transportation Commission, said “not everyone is paying their fair share for use of the roads.”

Griffith said drivers whose cars average fewer than 20 miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency could be paying up to five cents in taxes for every mile they drive, while drivers whose cars get more than 20 miles-per-gallon could be paying as little as one penny.

She said the current gas tax system creates a situation in which the vehicle you can afford, or what your lifestyle allows, determines how much you pay when traveling.

“Taxing gallons does have fairness and equity challenges,” Griffith asserted.

Griffith said the Transportation Commission recommends a slow transition from the current gas tax to the road usage charge over the next 10 years with the old and new tax systems running parallel to each other initially. She said while collection of the per mile fees will be more costly than collection of the gas tax, which drivers pay at the pump, the net revenue from the road usage charge will exceed that provided by the gas tax.

The transportation commission conducted a pilot test with a diverse range of drivers in the state who drove a collective 15 million miles during the pilot program and paid a rate of 2.4 cents per mile driven.

Multiple methods of measuring miles driven were tested, including odometer measurements reported quarterly, a smartphone app, permits that allow for a specific block or number of miles to be driven, and plug-in devices that operate both with and without GPS.

Griffith said surveys and focus groups done with test drivers indicated that privacy was one of their greatest concerns. She said 47% of pilot program participants did not want GPS to be used to track their vehicle.

The commission’s report estimated that under the road usage charge, owners of less fuel efficient vehicles will likely pay less and hybrid/electric vehicle owners who drive more than 12,000 miles per year could end up paying more than they currently do.

Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, expressed concerns that implementation of the road usage charge could shift the equity disparity burden to owners of vehicles with higher fuel efficiency, which might disincentivize people to purchase hybrid and electric vehicles.

•••

Cameron Sheppard is reporting from the WNPA News Bureau in Olympia.

Recommended for you

(1) comment

Sherie

It is so frustrating how Inslee and the dems in the state legislator are doing everything they can to suck us dry! First off these people “not paying their far share” have spent a ton of money to buy more efficient vehicles! They pay way more for taxes and registration on them and now your going to punish them for it?! Where is the incentive to “go green”? That’s supposedly soooo very important to the dems? What’s more this constitutes a huge government invasion into our privacy your going to find a lot of people not ok with big brother sticking something in our cars to register what our taxes will be! Plus they say they want to “phase it in” meaning add the per mile before they remove the tax at the pump! So we will be paying both taxes and once that is implemented is anyone foolish enough to believe they will take it off? And last but hugely important this will drive the cost of everything up as ever thing you buy is delivered and the extra cost will be passed on to the consumer! Way to go democrats your trying to stick it to us again! 35 years of this it’s time for a change of guard vote republican Washington please!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.