By on February 20, 2009

Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood is considering a transportation tax based on miles driven, to replace gasoline tax revenue. “We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled,” La Hood tells the Freep, echoing proposals being considered by Oregon, Idaho, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and North Carolina. La Hood argues that gasoline tax revenues “can not be relied on” to fund infrastructure maintenance, presumably because relatively high prices have caused a downturn in gas tax revenue. “One of the things I think everyone agrees with around reauthorization of the highway bill is that the highway trust fund is an antiquated system for funding our highways,” LaHood said. “It did work to build the interstate system and it was very effective, there’s no question about that. But the big question now is, We’re into the 21st Century and how are we going to take care of our infrastructure needs … with a highway trust fund that had to be plused up by $8 billion by Congress last year?” For La Hood the answer to that rhetorical question is “by putting GPS chips in your car and charging you by the mile.”

LaHood has firmly ruled out increasing the gas tax “in a recession,” but Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is hardly a short-term solution. According to Rob Atkinson, president of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission (the guy who figures out how to fund infrastructure) says it will take the better part of a decade to impliment a national VMT scheme. By then the “recession” argument against increasing the gas tax should be gone, and conveniently that method would avoid having to build, maintain and monitor millions of GPS chips. Meanwhile, the only real argument against raising the tax on gas (for which demand is quite inelastic) is political cowardice. La Hood might consider the VMT scheme “thinking outside the box,” but an enormous infrastructure of GPS chip makers, monitors, maintenance, and assessors (not to mention the possibility of privacy intrusions, a notion La Hood airly dismisses) is hardly a streamlined, efficient approach to the problem.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

78 Comments on “Transportation Secretary Considers Pay-Per-Mile Tax...”


  • avatar
    Qusus

    God: if you can hear my prayers, I will build three churches in your honor if you make it so that no one mentions “spreading the wealth” or references “socialism” even once in this thread henceforth.

    (Also, the GPS chips is a hilariously bad idea even for bad ideas… just comically stupid on so many levels.)

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    LaHood has firmly ruled out increasing the gas tax “in a recession,” but Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is hardly a short-term solution.

    I’m struggling to understand why you would refuse to increase the gas tax in a recession, but be willing to raise a VMT tax in a recession.

    Gas taxes (or many alternatives like VMT taxes or tolls that hit people for how much driving they do) are a reasonably fair way of paying for road construction. It’s ridiculous that Congress last year and in the stimulus bill decided to break much of the link between road construction and gas revenues. (Roads were not overall subsidized before, at least at the federal level; now they arguably are. The anti-road activists don’t care too much about that, on the whole, since they also got train and transit money in the stimulus. In fact, having roads be subsidized by general funds presumably makes it easier for them to make their point that transit and trains should be too.)

    The privacy and expense in a VMT tax make me also wonder what’s the point. Does it add anything to a gas tax and toll roads?

  • avatar
    Fritz

    This seems perfectly wrong. Oil consumption is the balance of trade and national security problem. Any tax should be directly tied to oil. Any alternative system such as electric powered vehicles that can be charged from domestic coal and nuclear plants should be encouraged. At some later date when oil alternative vehicles make up a significant percentage of total vehicle miles taxes can be imposed on their source of energy.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    Oh! God. May capitalism reign!

    And may someone quickly figure out how to make the GPS chips report the same Lat and Lon, regardless of their actual position. ;-}

    But Fritz, it’s not about oil imports, national security or the health of the environment. It is purely about increasing revenue to the government by any possible means – fair or not.

  • avatar
    kericf

    This is quite possibly the worst idea I have heard for funding transportation infrastructure.
    In fact this is one of the worst ideas in anything EVER.

    The complications with this idea are endless. There is so much hidden expense involved in this plan that I think it would end up costing more money than it generates or take 50 years to begin to produce profits.

    There are hundreds of millions of cars in this country, both registered and unregistered. You would have to design a system to work on EVERY car in the US that is drivable and then the infrastructure and equipment to track each system, not to mention the people and overhead to monitor and enforce the system. Talk about adding another layer of bureaucracy to an already convoluted government.

    Also, who is to say there won’t be an effective way to circumvent the system with some kind of cloaking or jamming device (illegally of course). You know there will be ways available. What then.

    This is all such a bad idea I can’t even begin to imagine why anyone would even consider it. Oh wait, it’s a politician, they don’t need to know how to do it, just tell someone they think it’s a good idea so go do it. If it goes over budget we’ll just put a TARP over it.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Definitely a Vote My Truck tax. A Hummer owner would then pay the same amount of tax as a Fit owner does. Assuming that the government spends that tax money toward public causes, the Fit owner is actually paying tax to the Hummer owner.

  • avatar
    bluecon

    That is so nice of the government to keep track of the little people or as they now call them the ‘comrades’.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Here we go again with “GPS Chips” and “Privacy” concerns.

    My only complaint is the constant headaches from the GPS chip in my head and the constant monitoring of my thoughts by satellites – which of course, are controlled by Major League Baseball.

    Let’s fix that first and then worry about my car.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    Would illegal aliens get a free pass on this one…or is that dependent on how they would vote?

  • avatar
    vww12

    «with a highway trust fund that had to be plused up by $8 billion by Congress last year?»

    Per US DOT data, from 1992 to 2006, 38% of the federal gasoline taxes were “flexed” away from roads and into politicians favorite pork (i.e., Mass Transit and other non-road projects).

    In fact, 16% of the gas tax is taken off the top and immediately reassigned to the Mass Transit Account to fund programs such as “New Freedom”, “Urbanized Area”, “ob Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program”, etc.

    Of the remaining “highway trust fund”, 25% is then “flexed” away ino non-transit projects and “flexible funding” for transit projects (3%).

    Do the math, 38% of your “Highway Trust Fund” tax does not go to highways. Today.

    No wonder politicos have had to “top it off”, and they wouldn’t have to if they weren’t raiding it in the first place.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    johnthacker, it’s a load of nonsense that roads weren’t subsidized before. That bastion of liberal anti-road thinkers, TXDOT, studied a particular Houston freeway and found that gas taxes incurred by drivers on that freeway while driving it would only cover something like 16% of its construction&maintenance costs over its expected lifetime.

    The remainder is currently made up for by gas taxes incurred on facilities funded by non-gas-tax sources (property and sales taxes, mostly) as well as direct infusions from the general fund (again property and sales taxes).

  • avatar
    cwallace

    Ech, they won’t bother with GPS in cars, there are too many as has been pointed out. Besides, what if you decide to walk? When you get your annual token to redeem for a doctor visit at the National Health Center, they’ll just put an RFID marker in your arm while you’re there. That way, if you decide to walk or ride a bicycle to the Soylent Green distribution point, you can be tracked and charged accordingly.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    vww2, the diversions from gas taxes are appropriate simply given the fact that urban drivers often drive the majority of their miles on facilities that don’t actually get any gas tax funding – as per the above. That’s even before you get into any arguments about the efficiency of highways versus transit in said urban areas.

  • avatar
    redbeard

    GPS!? Even if the government wants to tax per mile, WTF is wrong with using the odometer at inspection time?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Congratulations are due the Republicans. They demonized the gas tax so successfully that the most stupid ideas now merit consideration as the sensible idea is politically untenable.

    A big agenda item in our Congressional district has been transportation needs in a particular region. At one radio show, back in ’06, three candidates were asked about transportation. Two replied, yes, we have needs. How are we going to pay for them? The third replied, yes, we have needs and I’ll cut your taxes while we build roads.

    Guess which one won? Guess which one’s a Republican? Guess how we got to where we are today?

    On the other hand, I’d happily support pro-rated insurance premiums.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    With GPS you get reams of data on the populace at large. You all don’t really think this is about gas tax or road building , do you? No one is going along with RFID license plates or GPS boxes in cars that track movement unless they think they are getting cheaper fuel in return. Also comes the special rates for holiday travel or other events, sort of like special menus on Mother’s Day or Valentines Day. Of course there is a political component to this: Vote for me and I’ll carve out an exception, rate reduction, rule, for you! One more morass to get into.

    Insurance companies love this idea for obvious reasons.

    I like to ride bicycle a lot, at least I can do it without being judged, taxed, or questioned.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Even floating this idea shows a remarkable lack of sense on La Hood’s part. I assume he rolls in a car that already has a GPS, oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of Americans do not.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    How long has it been since a politician attempting to collect taxes was given the old tar & feather treatment? Were we still a colony? Has it really been that long? Really tho I’m not particularly keen on big brother knowing my where/when/how fast… I’m even less fond of my insurance company knowing.

  • avatar
    ARacer

    This idea will never happen. It would be a great way to avoid the tax all together though. It would surely be hacked and my 30k mile a year driving average will be adjusted to something more like oh, how about 10k. That sounds like a good number to me.

  • avatar
    jberger

    Fritz’s post is an indicator on what these guys are thinking.

    They are shoving electric cars down our throats, but don’t want to give up the revenue stream from the tax on gas. So they dream up a tax that applies to all vehicles regardless of emissions or energy sources to keep the stream of revenue alive and increasing over time.

    They don’t even give a consideration to the privacy aspects or impact to business because life long bureaucrats simply don’t know and don’t care. They just want to make sure they are in power and funded to keep the seat warm.

    It’s never about “fairness” or “infrastructure” or “enviroment”, it’s always about money, power and control.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Would my VW TDI, which gets 40+ mpg and is driven exclusively during off-peak hours on non-congested suburban and rural roads, would be assumed to have the same highway & traffic impact as any other vehicle? A mile is a mile, after all. I like many of the new administration’s ideas, but not this one. I’ll take the gas tax, which bites in rough proportion to vehicle size, weight, pollution and fuel consumption.

  • avatar
    George B

    Just make the states responsible for roads. Every time I buy gasoline I pay $0.184 per gallon to the federal government and $0.20 per gallon to the state of Texas. The federal government then gives money back to the state of Texas, minus expenses, with earmarks and other restrictions on how the money is spent. This is insane. My state could collect the gasoline tax and build roads more efficiently if the federal government wasn’t involved.

    Not sure why anyone would want a complex Vehicle Miles Traveled tax to replace the gasoline tax. The current tax does a good job of making bigger, heavier vehicles and drivers who drive more pay more for the roads they use. If alternative fuel vehicles ever became so common that a mileage based tax was needed, it could be collected at the state level as part of the vehicle inspection fee. Just record odometer readings each year. No need for extra hardware to track where I drive.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Who are we kidding. The country is broke and is plunging deeper into debt at twice the speed of light. There will be a gas tax increase and a vehicle mile tax and a value added tax:

    If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
    If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
    If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat
    If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet

    Taxman (The Beatles)
    Harrison

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Ditto to ARacer

    It’s not going to happen because people don’t want the government to be putting GPS units in their cars. Heck, I’m pretty liberal, but I oppose it.

    They just need to increase the gas tax $.75/gallon a year for at least 3 years. Allocate 1/3 to infrastructure, 1/3 for general revenue and 1/3 to energy/climate programs.

    If price spikes are an issue, there are various buffering formulas that you could apply where the tax goes up or down based upon market price factors for the fuel.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    MikeInCanada – the new heavier duty tin foil helmets will take care of the satellite induced headaches. Believe me, I know.

    M1EK – please come back with a study on costs of all the roads in a state, not just one cherry picked by an agency with an agenda to get more money. (An agenda I agree with). Also, please come back with an economic assessment of the benefit to non-car users to have emergency services and the amenities of everyday life delivered via roads. At least some of the putative subsidy is in fact an access fee.

  • avatar
    Ken Elias

    Maybe I’m missing something but wouldn’t the simplest idea be to raise the current fuel excise tax? It does the same thing – the more you use, the more tax you pay. It “rewards” those who use more fuel efficient vehicles and penalizes Hummer drivers – as it should.

    What’s scary is that he suggested this idea. It’s time for a New Federalist party in this country.

  • avatar
    martymcfly

    Idoit. Everyone already pays by the mile! its called “the more you drive – the more gas you buy – the more tax you pay”! This guys wants to add a cost to a vehicle and send people ‘bills’? WOW. That would be so much better than the ‘no cost way’ that is currently out there in the world!! NOT!

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Yay, a big-brother stalking GPS based per-mile road tax along with unreasonably high CAFE rates.

    This is so much smarter than taxing gas.

    The above pictured cocksucker is definitely getting money from RedFlex like monitoring agencies that cannot wait to put this people tracking infrastructure into place.

  • avatar
    geeber

    <M1EK: johnthacker, it’s a load of nonsense that roads weren’t subsidized before. That bastion of liberal anti-road thinkers, TXDOT, studied a particular Houston freeway and found that gas taxes incurred by drivers on that freeway while driving it would only cover something like 16% of its construction&maintenance costs over its expected lifetime.

    Texas diverts 1/3 of gas tax revenues and license fees to other uses.

    Of the money Texas motorists pay in driving taxes and fees, one third is diverted into spending on projects that do not contribute to the upkeep and expansion of the road network.

    Texans pay $3.5 billion into the fund annually through the gas tax and various vehicle licensing fees that apply only to drivers. Of this amount, nearly $1.5 billion is spent on items more properly funded with general revenue, including $725 million on public education and $765 million on social welfare programs including tourism and medical care.

    When this stops, we’ll talk, but until then, this needs to be addressed before any complaints about Texas drivers not paying for their fair share of road construction and maintenance can be taken seriously.

    M1EK: vww2, the diversions from gas taxes are appropriate simply given the fact that urban drivers often drive the majority of their miles on facilities that don’t actually get any gas tax funding – as per the above.

    Rural drivers drive more miles than urban drivers, which means that they pay the majority of gas taxes. (After all, isn’t one of the benefits of urban living the need to drive less?)

    Your defense of “flexing” would make sense if the funds in question were being used for urban roads. But, as per the information provided by vww12, these funds are not being used for that purpose.

    And urban residents benefit from roads built in rural areas. Agricultural goods – everyone needs to eat – and manufactured goods made in rural and surburban areas must be easily transported to urban areas.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    I am sure that there will be an exemption for G-XX plated vehicles and government officials on “official” business.

    Fot those of you wondering about the gas tax….drops in usage due to less driving and more fuel efficient cars has led to decreased revenue. Higher gas taxes will result in even more efficient cars, even less driving and even less revenue. In short, those of us who have adjusted to what the government asked us to do, be more efficient, are going to get screwed.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    Ray LaHood is edumacated as a teacher. He wants to apply the benefits of public school instruction to society at large. Logic and common sense isn’t in the picture.
    Apparently his edumacation didn’t include learning how to assess the technological challenges facing such a proposal. GPS is a passive broadcast system. So, how are you going to turn it into a data acquisition and logging system? Burst transmissions to giant frickkin mother satellites from a quarter billion cars? Yeah right. How about cell tower-like thingies that pick up signals from cars? How many of those puppies will you need, anyway? Are you ready to armor them against the quarter billion guns in this country – or other types of vandalism? Of course, the specifications of any such system will be leaked or, if not, will be cracked by hackers in short order, just as they have done with every copy protection scheme the entertainment industry bozos have come up with. Are you going to log it right in my car? Be my guest – just makes it easier to defeat out of sight of prying eyes. Don’t be a pig, just shut it off most of the time. Dumb, dumb, dumb, DUMB!!

    I wish there were a market where I could go massively short on Federal government stupidity. I could make a fortune.

    I’m pretty sure Mr. LaHood is not a commenter or contributor here, so please allow me to observe that he is a weapons grade fool.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    Raising the gas tax is a much better idea because it costs nothing more to administrate than it does now. With a per mile tax they’ll have to create a whole extra bureaucracy to implement and manage it. It also provides a disincentive for people to buy more fuel efficient vehicles.

    A gas tax would help encourage sales of more efficient vehicles and that would certainly help manufacturers who are being pushed to build more efficient cars. Taxing per mile makes people less likely to buy a new vehicle.

    Ray LaHood should go die in a fire.

  • avatar
    menno

    So if the imbeciles pull this off, will it mean “they” know where I am, when I’m there, how fast I’m going, whether I was going 1 mph around the corner instead of stopping – and will there be “revenue generation” monthly in tickets, increased insurance from same (and taxes on), etc etc ad nauseum? Where are my liberties, my freedom, my rights? How about your liberties, your freedom, your rights?

    I’ll come right out and say it. We need a new government, and this one has only been in place for a month. It’s time for a recall of ALL of the Washington Lords & Masters. FIRE ‘EM ALL, drive ‘em out. By torch & pitchfork if necessary. How about tar & feathers?

    Then – to be honest – we need to get rid of both the Repugnican and Demoncrat parties and start afresh.

    The Constitution Party and Libertarian Party would be two great starting points.

    Then it might be a real fine idea to fire all of the “edumacators” in public schools who think that PCism and their leftist failed viewpoints are the only viable viewpoints and teach this to our young (and it is an unworkable system, as was proven by the collapse of the communist Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and conversion of Communist China to a more free market nation than our own).

    Finally, it might be a real fine idea to disallow anyone who is willing to vote in folks who would steal on their behalf. So then, registered Democrats and Republicans would simply be disallowed from voting. Permanently. Because they are Seditionists and traitors to the American Way, liberty, freedom and rights of others by their self-evident past actions.

    I can hope. We’d have some chance of having the average person actually have a say again…

  • avatar
    TireGuy

    This is a ridiculous idea.

    Instead of charging per mile, a gas tax as a fixed amount and not a percentage of sales is a very effective way of charging for the use of the streets. If you want to own a gas guzzler – your own choice, you pay just a bit more.

    Implementing GPS in any car and allowing government to check on this for the tax charge would be the invitation for using the same information e.g. for criminal cases – the intrusion of privacy would be extraordinary.

  • avatar

    “build, maintain and monitor millions of GPS chips [...] but an enormous infrastructure of GPS chip makers, monitors, maintenance, and assessors”

    It’s not about the people’s wishes, or about the funds collected (which would be more efficiently collected, as others have said, through increased fuel taxes with no extra funding required). It’s about payback (at the taxpayers expense) to the individuals, corporations and unions who bankrolled La Hood’s political career.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    johnthacker, it’s a load of nonsense that roads weren’t subsidized before. That bastion of liberal anti-road thinkers, TXDOT, studied a particular Houston freeway and found that gas taxes incurred by drivers on that freeway while driving it would only cover something like 16% of its construction&maintenance costs over its expected lifetime.

    The remainder is currently made up for by gas taxes incurred on facilities funded by non-gas-tax sources (property and sales taxes, mostly) as well as direct infusions from the general fund (again property and sales taxes).

    Mr. Dahmus, I said “at least at the federal level.” Here’s is the USDOT FHWA report on funding for highways and disposition of highway user fee revenues for 2003. Here’s the 2007 report. The linked table from the 2003 is the most useful one for our purposes; there are several useful ones in the 2007 report, but the table corresponding to the linked one from 2003 is not online yet.

    93% of the federal money comes from the gas tax. About two-thirds of state monies comes from state gas taxes and user fees, including car registration fees, truck taxes, tire taxes, and other things that hit drivers. Certainly this varies a lot by state, though. OTOH, the overwhelming majority of local funding comes from general fund sources like property taxes and bonds approved and sold for particular purposes. Local government does account for some 40% of the total, so on net only about 55% of highway funding is gas and use tax based, despite almost all the federal aid (traditionally, pre-last year and the stimulus) being Highway Trust Fund gas tax based.

    However, part of the gas tax funds does indeed get redistributed to Mass Transit. As footnote 2 notes, the second column, “Other Funds and Accounts” includes the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund, which makes up the largest portion of it. The Mass Transit Account is funded by gasoline, diesel, and other motor fuel taxes. geeber appears to be largely correct about the percentage of federal funds diverted to nonhighway purposes. However, adding that sum total back in (since money is fungible) would still only mean that about 60% of the total cost of highways is paid via gas taxes and other user fees– again, because of local bond issues and property taxes.

    Note that these figures, however, include state and locally administered roads. That somewhat decreases Mr. Dahmus’s point about being taxed for roads that they don’t use, though not entirely. If you look at federally administered roads only as a unit, they are almost entirely paid for by user fees. And that was my point, about what was happening federally.

    Of course use of tolls would address Mr. Dahmus’s objection about urban drivers (or anyone else) paying for roads that they don’t directly use. It’s true that there’s a technical argument over the formula used to disburse the highway monies, and how much it should take population versus road miles versus vehicle miles traveled versus taxes paid into the system etc. into account. All of those things are weighted in the current formula, BTW. I believe that the stimulus ended up using a different, more urban-friendly and anti-rural formula than the formula used in the last big highway bill. (With the absurd name of SAFETEA-LU.)

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    My father’s response to such a proposal (as an editorial in the LA Times):

    Your editorial suggesting paying for the transportation infrastructure improvements with a vehicle mileage tax instead of increasing the existing fuel tax has not been thought through.

    Heavy vehicles, such as trucks and SUVs, do much more damage to roads per mile than lighter vehicles. Fuel efficiency is closely related to vehicle weight. Therefore, a tax on the fuel used is more reasonable, in terms of cost of infrastructure, than a tax on actual miles driven.

    Your proposed new mileage tax also would be politically more difficult to impose than an increase in the existing fuel tax. Let’s face it: Imposing new taxes is a tougher sell than raising old ones. In addition, raising the existing tax would be cheaper to implement and easier to enforce. Installing “tamper-proof devices” to transmit information to a tax office would be both expensive and bureaucratically cumbersome.

    Requiring each driver to visit a certified mechanic on a regular basis would be absurdly time-consuming and inefficient compared with simply collecting the same increased fuel tax revenues by means of our existing, highly functional gas taxation system.

    Dallas Weaver

  • avatar
    70 Chevelle SS454

    If these governments were really just interested in “charging by the mile,” they would be talking odometer counts at an annual inspection.

    That’s not what they’re interested in, though. GPS offers unbelievable benefits to the entrepreneurial-minded local bureaucrat faced with a massive budget shortfall who cannot raise taxes any more.

    (Think that’s paranoid? Ask the “best and brightest” whether it would be fair to issue traffic tickets based on GPS-recorded speeding. You’d get enough disagreement on whether “the law is the law” to convince a city council member he could later play CYA by saying it was FOR THE CHILDREN.)

  • avatar
    dgduris

    @martymcfly:
    +1

  • avatar
    Stu Sidoti

    So if I encase the little chip in a lead box, what happens? Anything? Nothing?

  • avatar
    vww12

    «the diversions from gas taxes are appropriate simply given the fact that urban drivers often drive the majority of their miles on facilities that don’t actually get any gas tax funding»

    Nice obfuscation & diversion!

    So I pay gasoline taxes for the “Highway Trust Fund” and somehow it is appropriate that my “Highway Trust Fund” tax money be spent on other than highway infrastructure?

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Anyone know how this would apply to motorcycles & bicycles? Are they going to be taxed as well?

  • avatar
    stuki

    So, they will be bipartisan and not touch the sacred gas tax. Besides, even ‘their’ side don’t want to raise taxes in a recession. Selling our children to China and inflating away the currency is the fad for now.

    Hence, they cook up a program where even the planning will take ten years, and will require hiring and feeding a bunch of liberal yackers, just as college endowments are dropping. Hey, it’s stimulus. And by the time the ten years are up, they’re no longer in power anyway, so who cares. They get all the liberal and green cred, without unduly offending the Texans.

    Not that I’m complaining. In fact, “let’s plan for a decade” is a strategy I could absolutely get behind as regards other pet projects of our statist overlords as well. One shouldn’t be too rash. Especially in government. Imagine if W had allowed for a similar 10 year planning stage for his post 9/11 escapades…..

  • avatar
    njoneer

    political cowardice

    …and a power grab.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    Gosh, what a surprise: road warriors love getting subsidised and will go to great lengths to tell you why it’s appropriate.

    TXDOT did the study, folks. The missing money comes mainly from urban drivers who pay a lot of gas taxes driving on roads that never see any of that money; and partly from non-drivers (general funds). Take it up with them – they certainly have no love for either group; but are just pointing out that the money train for the road welfare queens can only go so far.

    And an 84% subsidy from people incurring gas taxes on non-gas-tax-funded roadways plus the property/sales tax injections far outweighs the 33%-at-most diversion from the federal and state gas taxes to other stuff.

  • avatar
    285exp

    Posted by KixStart:

    Congratulations are due the Republicans. They demonized the gas tax so successfully that the most stupid ideas now merit consideration as the sensible idea is politically untenable.

    You do realize that the Democrats control the Presidency, the House, and the Senate. They are free to bravely vote their conscience and impose a gas tax without those pesky Republicans. Instead this bozo comes up with an incredibly stupid and unworkable plan to track us all with GPS and bill everybody the same rate, regardless of whether they are driving a Hummer or a Prius. Go ahead, blame the Republicans all you want, but this turkey belongs to Obama.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Well, most of us agree on this, but where’s it getting us? Unlike railing at Chrysler or GM, who really do just laugh at you, these guys can lose their jobs if they burn too many public bridges.

    http://fastlane.dot.gov/
    The official blog of the US Secretary of Transportation. While we’re engaged in our merry little circle-jerk here, all of their entries have zero comments made. I have an obscene urge to go off topic on every post and accuse the new appointees of setting themselves up for the revolving door treatment.

    http://fastlane.dot.gov/2008/12/in-case-you-mis.html
    post mentioning the Oregon plan

    http://www.dot.gov/contact.html
    generic contact page with #’s, emails, addresses, etc…

    It’s a moderated site (so they may just delete dissent away, but that in itself is a problem for them on a large enough scale), but posts containing the kind of citations and research found at TTAC are very persuasive and not what you would typically expect from the unwashed masses.

  • avatar
    vww12

    M1EK – «The missing money comes mainly from urban drivers; partly from urban non-drivers.»

    Lemme see the “logic” being applied here.

    Urban drivers pay gasoline taxes and drive surface streets so they should be compensated with bike pathways and buses.

    Urban non-drivers do not pay any gasoline taxes so they should be compensated with environmental education programs paid for with the gasoline tax.

    – * -

    By the way, I live in downtown Miami and only get on the highway about once a week, but sometimes I wonder why, when “highway” traffic rolls at 30 MPH or less. I kinda wish my gasoline tax for the “Highway Trust Fund” would pay for half-decent new or wider highways and overpasses.or better yet, both.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    285exp,

    I stand by what I wrote. One of the Dems problems is to remain in office long enough to have a positive effect. Raising a thoroughly demonized tax brings with it the specter of ’94.

    Even the dumb ideas, therefore, have the merit of being ‘different’ which they might successfully paint as bold.

    Let’s look at the overriding problem we have… the Dems have to undo cumulative deficits of a few trillion dollars, thanks to the efforts of “small government” Presidunces Rayguns and Bust. And they have to find a way to do this while heading into a financial crisis thanks to Bust.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    vww12,

    It is not feasible, in this area, to apply the amount of paving necessary to reduce congestion. We’ve got multi-billion dollar projects going, as it is, and the effective improvement for some of these is close to zero.

    There are certainly projects which appear to me to have been effective… the Wakota Bridge along I-494, Southeast of St. Paul… Boston’s Big Dig (you can now practically fly to Logan Airport only to pull away from the gate and sit for an hour or two – how ironic is that?).

    But plenty of other downtown areas solidly jam up every day and there’s no practical way to prevent it with straight highway expenditures. Here in the Twin Cities, widening an I-94 corridor or adding real interchanges between I-94 and I-35E/W would involve purchasing so much property as to make the plan entirely uneconomic. You can only add so much pavement to a downtown before you’ve erased the reason for the highway to exist at all.

    In such situations, the only way to alleviate the suffering of motorists is to give them alternatives to driving. Using the highway fund to alleviate highway congestion is the right thing to do.

    And people seem to appreciate this… I noticed that most of the rush-hour express busses yesterday were packed (and I was sitting on I-94 at the time, getting 4mpg in what is normally a 26-28mpg car, so this urban driver was more than paying his way).

  • avatar
    sillyp

    This is ludicrous. Not the mileage tax (ok, yes it is), but the reaction. We’re all being played here. Follow the logic:

    1. Everyone complains about bad roads, lack of maintenance, and lack of plans for new ones.
    2. Everyone bitches incessantly about gas taxes: “You CAN’T raise taxes again!”
    3. Insanely complex, stupid, and cumbersome alternatives like the mileage tax are batted about and discussed.
    4. The populace becomes angry and incensed at the additional costs, inconvenience, and complete lack of logic.
    5. Said populace begins discussing, in earnest, the benefits of the gas tax: smaller vehicles are more efficient, weigh less, and cause less wear and tear on roads. Larger vehicles the opposite. Implementation is insanely easy: the tax is already there! Collection is instantaneous: pay as you go!
    6. Populace now has braced themselves for a gas tax increase – nay, THEY demand it in lieu of the alternative.
    7. Lawmakers pat themselves on back.

  • avatar
    285exp

    Well KixStart,

    The Democrats are off to a great fiscally responsible start by passing that Porkfest Stimulus package, and blaming the financial crisis entirely on Bush is either dishonest or ignorant, take your pick.

    So the change we were promised is painting a stupid idea as being “bold”? Great.

  • avatar
    Fritz

    jberger wrote:

    “Fritz’s post is an indicator on what these guys are thinking.”

    If energy independence was on their mind Ray La Hood would not be floating this idea. It is counterproductive. Instead it is more likely based on the notion that burning carbon based fuels will cause detrimental global warming. A foolish notion not so broadly supported by scientists as is represented.

    The transfer of wealth out of the US to pay for oil over the past decades is in large part responsible for our economic decline. We need cheap plentiful domestic energy to revitalize manufacturing in the US. Old technology based on foreign dependence won’t do. I don’t know what the solution is but importing less oil has got to be a central part of it.

    Tax policy must be reality based or we are doomed.

  • avatar

    Maybe not: Obama Administration Shoots Down LaHood Mileage Tax Idea

    @sillyp: An increase in the gas tax is coming, whether we like it or not.

  • avatar
    tedward

    sillyp
    you missed a few steps

    7. Lawmakers, now concerned that the populace has embraced the gas tax, quickly implement the complex solution which relies on private vendors for oversight and manufacturing. Republicans defend solution as supporting “principal”, Democrats defend as supporting “safety.” (note that these roles are interchangeable for foreign policy purposes)

    8. Solution languishes in overbudget land, enforcement is regional at best and states begin to legislate opt-out measures for their residents. Private vendors have carefully guaranteed federal contracts and do not really care.

    9. Lawmakers, worried about their principals and safety of course, tie compliance with the Solution to the receipt of federal highway funds, guaranteeing poor state compliance.

    10. Lawmakers retire from a lifetime of government service, citing the attraction of a family life, and immediately take lucrative employment with aforementioned private vendors and/or institutions and trade groups funded by same.

    11. Lawmakers pat themselves on back.

  • avatar
    geeber

    M1EK: Gosh, what a surprise: road warriors love getting subsidised and will go to great lengths to tell you why it’s appropriate.

    Based on the information posted on this site, drivers – through diverted gas taxes and licensing fees – are subsidizing everything from mass transit to bicycle paths to spending in the general fund.

    And, as shown above, when considered as a unit, federal roads are largely paid for by user fees. And that’s with a substantial diversion of the funds to other, non-road, projects.

    M1EK: TXDOT did the study, folks.

    The department apparently missed the one-third of the state gas tax and license fees revenues diverted to the General Fund. I’m not surprised that a state government department would conveniently gloss over this fact to justify any particular case it is trying to make.

    M1EK: The missing money comes mainly from urban drivers who pay a lot of gas taxes driving on roads that never see any of that money; and partly from non-drivers (general funds). Take it up with them – they certainly have no love for either group; but are just pointing out that the money train for the road welfare queens can only go so far.

    Urban drivers need to take it up with people who advocated shifting gas tax funds to bike paths and mass transit systems. These may lessen congestion, and I certainly have no problem with government providing them.

    But the simple fact is that mass transit and bicycle path users are being subsidized by drivers, not the other way around. And rural drivers drive more miles than urban drivers.

    Incidentally, these projects, however worthy, don’t prevent road damage, which is mostly caused by tractor trailers. I seriously doubt that goods carried on trucks into urban areas can be delivered via the subway or by bicycles.

    M1EK: And an 84% subsidy from people incurring gas taxes on non-gas-tax-funded roadways plus the property/sales tax injections far outweighs the 33%-at-most diversion from the federal and state gas taxes to other stuff.

    As mentioned above, most driving is done by rural and suburban drivers. And urban drivers benefit from roads to rural and suburban areas, unless cities are now transporting critical goods via teleportation.

    KixStart: It is not feasible, in this area, to apply the amount of paving necessary to reduce congestion. We’ve got multi-billion dollar projects going, as it is, and the effective improvement for some of these is close to zero.

    Some projects improve safety even if they don’t completely eliminate congestion during peak hours. In this area, a major project is revamping the exit/entrance ramps and widening lanes where two major highways meet, both for improved safety and traffic flow. Will there still be backups at rush hour? Probably. But for the rest of the day, they will improve traffic flow and increase safety, simply through better design and more capacity. And more capacity can reduce the amount of time back-ups occur, even if back-ups aren’t eliminated entirely. The perfect can’t be the enemy of the good.

    KixStart: Let’s look at the overriding problem we have… the Dems have to undo cumulative deficits of a few trillion dollars, thanks to the efforts of “small government” Presidunces Rayguns and Bust.

    The federal government only ran a surplus in recent times when we had a Republican Congress to keep a Democratic President (Bill Clinton) in check. And he wanted to spend more. (Remember the infamous budget showdown of the mid-1990s? It didn’t happen because President Clinton wanted to spend less.)

    If you are truly concerned about the federal deficit – given recent actions, current Democrats certainly aren’t – you will support a government divided between a Democratic president and a Republican Congress. This combination has generally resulted in fiscal restraint.

    Having the same party control both the executive and legislative branches – whether it is the Democrats or the Republicans – is not conducive to fiscal restraint.

    KixStart: And they have to find a way to do this while heading into a financial crisis thanks to Bust.

    Except that the roots of this crisis extend back to at least 15 years ago, and many of the problems with, for example, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, stem from the Clinton Administration.

    KixStart: Using the highway fund to alleviate highway congestion is the right thing to do.

    And people seem to appreciate this… I noticed that most of the rush-hour express busses yesterday were packed (and I was sitting on I-94 at the time, getting 4mpg in what is normally a 26-28mpg car, so this urban driver was more than paying his way).

    If they are sitting in traffic in a bus, they haven’t escaped congestion. They are just sitting in a bus instead of a private vehicle. Alleviating congestion means getting to said destination faster.

    A few years ago, I rode the bus to work. Every day, it took me twice as long to reach my destination, as compared to when I drove myself.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Yes, let’s raise the taxes. Who cares if it’s a recession.

    For all of you that want to be taxed more, please explain how the gubmint will spend YOUR money more efficiently than you.

    I look forward to your rationalizations.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The Obama administration has quickly distanced itself from this idea:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090220/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/lahood_vehicle_mileage_tax_7

    IMO the main thing wrong with the existing gas tax structure it is a fixed pennies-per-gallon deal and hasn’t been raised in almost sixteen years.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    re: sillyp / February 20th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    i agree with what sillyp said. some people intentionally go ‘too far’ to ensure that everybody else goes ‘far enough.’

    after floating foolish ideas like this, a moderate increase in fuel taxes becomes so much easier for people to accept.

  • avatar
    vww12

    «IMO the main thing wrong with the existing gas tax structure it is a fixed pennies-per-gallon deal and hasn’t been raised in almost sixteen years.»

    IYO, how can anything be wrong with a tax that generates so much cash that politicians can afford to divert 38% into unrelated matters?

    Unless you mean that what is wrong is to have the tax at 18¢. In which case, you are right.

    Let’s reduce the tax 38% to 11¢ per gallon so that there is nothing wrong with the tax! Let the Highway Trust Fund tax fund highways!

  • avatar
    tedward

    jkross22

    Simplest way I can answer that is to say that the money has already been spent (and poorly at that), and, hate to break it to you, but tax breaks were one of the things that this money was already spent on. Relying on an eventual (some would say mythical) laffer curve upside has been the driving force behind the reckless spending that makes our current tax burden so dangerous.

    It would have been possible to “grow our way out” of this debt organically, letting average income and market potential climb in the process, but average (read…employee) income growth was in no way supported by the laffer curve proponents (due to an obvious and shameful Republican quid pro quo with business donors). Not to mention the expansion of lop-sided trade agreements, a war or two, and, oh I don’t know, the collapse of the housing securities markets. It could have worked, but not now, and not with those particular Republicans calling the shots…they simply never planned for the long-term.

    And yes, I know that this is shamefully oversimplified.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I’m glad to see the administration’s reply to this hare-brained idea, but many of the points about the two-faced self-interesed politicians still apply.

    We had a miniature version of this play out in California this week. As many of you know, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) which has no legislative oversite, has been trying to regulate CO2 as a pollutant so that thy can, in effect, create fuel-efficiency standards for our state and others who follow CARB standards.

    At the same time, our horrible state budget situation forced a last-minute deal to get one additional Republican vote to pass a budget before 20,000 state employees got layed off. The budget in our state senate included a 12.5 cent/gallon increase in the gasoline tax and to get the one vote needed, this senator was able to force the removal of that provision.

    Now, while I personally think the idea of a higher gas tax has some merit (I also work from home so it won’t effect me much, in the spirit of full disclosure) I can see the difficulty in raising such taxes at a tough time. However, in the spirit of having some semblance of a coherant strategy for our state, I thought it made perfect sense to create this incentive for consumers to buy the more fuel-efficient cars that CARB wants to mandate be sold here. Oh well. What do I know?

  • avatar
    Dr. No

    Tax the gas. If they are going to raise taxes, and they will, at least citizens can mitigate this tax bite by:
    1. Commute to work with others
    2. Buy a more fuel efficient car
    3. Take the bus
    4. Move closer to work
    5. Cut out frivolous trips

    Europe is way ahead of the U.S. on this one, but with “leaders” like Pelosi, it’s no surprise.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Dr. No,

    Pelosi’s inability to rally bi-partisan support aside, you should note that our new Secretary of Transportation who raised this stupid idea is actually a Republican.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    exp285: “So the change we were promised is painting a stupid idea as being “bold”? Great.”

    Politics is the art of the possible. The Democrats, thanks to George Bush’s record and pointless deficits, don’t have a lot of options.

    geeber: “If they are sitting in traffic in a bus, they haven’t escaped congestion. They are just sitting in a bus instead of a private vehicle. Alleviating congestion means getting to said destination faster.”

    Hello? That’s 40 or so cars removed from the road, reducing congestion. Riding in the bus as a passenger relieves you of the responsibility of driving. It’s an opportunity to do something more productive than swearing.

  • avatar
    sillyp

    Re: jkross22

    Or, because it’s a recession, let’s do nothing.

    I’ve always been a firm believer in the gas tax. It’s a consumption tax, it’s incredibly fair and egalitarian, and finally, it’s a great incentive to adjust and make changes to a wasteful lifestyle. High gas prices certainly made me think more about where and why I was driving – I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    Roads may have crossed into being a right rather than a privilege, and as such need be funded and paid for. I agree that where gas tax dollars go is murky and the whole system needs to be re-evaluated, but stop with the false dichotomy. It’s not an either/or option in terms of taxes: sorry, everything costs money.

    I can’t wait for the time when someone finally plunges a dagger through the heart of that ridiculous posturing by Republicans, that alllllll taxes are evil and spent only on unneeded pork. It’s the most insulting pandering ever.

    Don’t flame me – I’m bashing Republicans on this topic only! I’m a proud independent and will gladly trash the Dems on other issues. Cheers.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    The missing money comes mainly from urban drivers who pay a lot of gas taxes driving on roads that never see any of that money; and partly from non-drivers (general funds).

    First off, “urban drivers are subsidizing rural drivers” is a very different complaint from saying that highways are subsidized in general. Highways as a whole can be not subsidized while at the same time one set of drivers can subsidize another, or one set of roads can subsidize another. (The latter type of cross-subsidization happens all the time with air routes and train routes as well, where certain routes lose money but bring additional traffic on profitable routes.) Note at the same time that urban driving tends to be more congested and with lower gas mileage; therefore, it ought to be taxed relatively more. (Though you would still have an argument for trying to keep that money local.) Setting the tax at an appropriate level to discourage urban congestion would unnecessarily penalize rural drivers. (And thus that’s an argument for congestion charges and tolls in heavily congested areas.)

    Second, the use of general funds has little-to-nothing to do with the federal government, at least before last year’s “emergency spending” and the stimulus bill. The use of general funds is mostly from local government, which tends to be local property taxes and bonds for local roads, along with a significant state contribution, amounts varying by state. The only real federal component to this complaint to the exact weights given in the Highway Trust Fund formula to amount of tax paid, VMT, and highway miles. Urban states always want to diminish the highway miles factor in the money available for maintenance, while rural states want to increase it. But even beyond that, the disposition of the funds is largely up to state governments. (And there certainly are state funds that benefit urban dwellers disproportionately.) I think it’s perfectly reasonable that a portion of the funds collected in an urban area go towards mass transit if the people there want, but I still think it’s absurd to pretend that roads overall are subsidized.

    The easy solution for your problem, M1EK, is the use of PPPs and toll roads, such as they’ve already done in TX. Then people who use a road pay, instead of those who don’t subsidizing it.

    My original point stands– at the federal level, as a whole, highways were not subsidized by non-drivers until we elected the new Democratic Congress in 2006. However, since transit and train fans are also getting extra spending on their priorities, and most of them care a lot more about getting new transit and trains than they do about whether or not roads are subsidized, they’re still pretty happy. (Just as specialty crop growers were happy enough to go along with last year’s farm bill even though they only got crumbs, as it was more than they had gotten before, even though most of the money is going to the same big crops like Wheat, Corn, and Soybeans.)

  • avatar
    M1EK

    geeber, you are still actively misleading people about subsidy – if I drive 10 miles and you drive 100 miles, but you only pay 50% of the cost of your driving and I pay 150% of the cost of mine, I am subsidizing you (this obviously only works due to the number of drivers like me).

    The Houston study stands on its own – it shows that suburban drivers don’t pay their own way (we all have to cover the difference – suburban drivers may pay some of the general funds used to fill the gaps; but urban drivers get the worst deal of all; even urban non-drivers, though, usually end up paying more in general funds for highways than they ever get back from the small amount of federal gas tax sent their way).

  • avatar
    M1EK

    johnthacker, again, you are dead wrong: the Houston study is particularly illustrative. Urban drivers (people who, when they drive, are much more likely to drive a given mile on a road that receives no gas tax funding) are paying most of the difference; general funds make up the rest.

    In Texas, the general funds are usually in the form of “local government must ‘donate’ money to TXDOT in order to get the highway built”. There is no local gas tax; there are no locally-controlled toll roads; so where do you THINK the money comes from?

    As for toll roads in general, I’m for ‘em, obviously. So is TXDOT now, because they have figured out that the population trends and their inability to raise the gas tax have put them between a rock and a hard place.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    This just in, from cnn.com: “In a written statement, the (Transportation) department said, “The policy of taxing motorists based on how many miles they have traveled is not and will not be Obama administration policy.”

  • avatar
    meefer

    If they do this INSTEAD of the gas tax I’ll be all for it. This you can hack into, gas you have to buy.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Here let me put this terrible logic to rest…

    “If you drive more, you pay more road taxes since you received more help from the government.”

    Sounds good? Try this.

    “If you pay more taxes, you deserve to get more help from the government.”

    I don’t think these statements really contradict each other. They both also just happen to be dead wrong.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Kixstart: Hello? That’s 40 or so cars removed from the road, reducing congestion. Riding in the bus as a passenger relieves you of the responsibility of driving. It’s an opportunity to do something more productive than swearing.

    Please re-read what you posted. You and the bus riders are still sitting in congestion. They are just sitting in a bus, instead of sitting in a car.

    If people want to sit in a bus instead of their own car, that is fine with me, but, from a personal standpoint, I don’t want to sit in traffic, period, whether I am stting in a bus or in a car. “Alleviating congestion” means I am moving faster, not merely changing the type of vehicle I sit in while waiting in traffic.

    <M1EK: geeber, you are still actively misleading people about subsidy – if I drive 10 miles and you drive 100 miles, but you only pay 50% of the cost of your driving and I pay 150% of the cost of mine, I am subsidizing you (this obviously only works due to the number of drivers like me).

    Both you and the study are ignoring Texas’s diversion of gas tax and motor license funds to the general fund. When that diversion stops, we’ll talk about which drivers are paying their own way. In the past, you have tried to dismiss this by saying this diversion represents a “small amount,” but since it is 1/3 of total revenues, the amount diverted is anything but “small.”

    A more productive route would be to focus on correcting this first.

    At the federal level, you are ignoring the diversion of federal gas tax and motor vehicle revenues to non-road projects.

    You are also ignoring how you, as an urban resident and driver, benefit from rural and suburban roads. It’s in the interest of cities to have easy, convenient connections to rural and suburban areas so that agricultural goods and manufactured products can be easily transported to the city.

    M1EK: The Houston study stands on its own – it shows that suburban drivers don’t pay their own way (we all have to cover the difference – suburban drivers may pay some of the general funds used to fill the gaps; but urban drivers get the worst deal of all; even urban non-drivers, though, usually end up paying more in general funds for highways than they ever get back from the small amount of federal gas tax sent their way).

    Urban non-drivers aren’t paying federal gas taxes or license fees. But their favored modes of transportation – mass transit and bike paths – are receiving money from those funds on the federal level. They benefit from these projects; therefore it’s entirely appropriate that they pay state taxes to the general fund in support of these projects.

    The simple fact is that these urban non-drivers are being subsidized by drivers, not the other way around. I have no problem with this, but let’s be accurate as to which party is receiving the subsidy. Urban drivers and urban non-drivers benefit from better roads in rural and suburban areas. Rural and suburban drivers benefit from projects that alleviate congestion in the city. But drivers as a whole pay their own way.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    geeber,

    No, YOU go read what I wrote. I got 40 cars out of your way and replaced them all with just one bus.

    Happy now?

  • avatar
    M1EK

    geeber, you are again actively trying to mislead. Urban non-drivers in Texas receive $0.00 in state support – they get a small amount of federal money from the federal gas tax; FAR outweighed by the diversions from the general fund for major arterial roadways and even the state highway system itself.

    Drivers ‘as a whole’ only ‘pay their own way’ in the sense that nearly everybody drives. In the sense that matters, i.e. whether they pay somewhat proportionally and fairly to the amount and type of driving they do, the jury is out: suburban drivers are welfare queens.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    Urban non-drivers in Texas receive $0.00 in state support

    Really? There’s absolutely no state money for mass transit in Texas? I know that TxDOT pays for some intercity rail improvements and feasibility studies, not just freight but also commuter and intercity passenger (presumably not enough to your liking), but if you never leave your urban area, I suppose that doesn’t help either. Still, TxDOT does have a Public Transportation division whose mission is to provide funding to local mass transit. So while urban dwellers still may feel shortchanged, it’s not the case that there’s $0.00 in state support.

    But urban non-drivers aren’t paying the gas tax that pays for most roads, and neither are they paying the local taxes that make up the balance of most roads. Your complaint is focused on urban drivers, who presumably drive mostly on locally financed roads.

    However, 31% of registration fees goes directly to counties to spend as they wish. (Though that is recycling money that’s paid locally in some sense.) Also note that Texas spends 24 cents out of every dollar in fuel taxes on public schools, so state fuel taxes directly benefit urban non-drivers in that sense.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    johnthacker, again, you are dead wrong: the Houston study is particularly illustrative. Urban drivers (people who, when they drive, are much more likely to drive a given mile on a road that receives no gas tax funding) are paying most of the difference; general funds make up the rest.

    M1EK, once again, you can’t read. First of, I said AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL roads were not subsidized until last year’s highway bill. That is true. There were and are several different factions in Congress. One group of conservative Republicans both did not want to spend more highway money and did not want to raise the gas tax. Another group of liberal Democrats wanted to spend more highway money (and add some mass transit and rail funding) and raise the gas tax. A group of moderates in the middle wanted to not raise the gas tax but raid the general fund in order to raise highway money. The moderates won.

    I’m sure you could find some way to blame in solely on Republicans, M1EK, but note that the same thing happened in the stimulus bill as well. The Congressional Democratic Party, or enough of it, has decided that raising the gas tax is a political loser, but that more highway spending is a political winner. Mass transit and rail advocates are happy with the bigger crumbs that they’re getting, and generally choose to ignore that fact that last year and this year have seen the largest federal subsidy of roads paid for by non-drivers in history.

    Secondly, I said that there’s a distinct difference between arguing that “roads/drivers are subsidized in general” and “urban drivers subsidize suburban drivers.” There are two separate arguments there. I said I think you’re on much firmer ground arguing that urban drivers are more heavily taxed than you are arguing that roads in general are subsidized, or that urban non-drivers are penalized. Yes, I think that geeber is clouding the issue as well by mixing the two as well. Arguing about whether road funds getting siphoned off to mass transit, general fund, or public school projects outweighs any general fund contributions only affects the issue of whether roads in general are subsidized. However, I don’t see much evidence for general fund contributions to the Texas State Highway Fund.

    Roads can be unsubsidized while certain drivers can still be subsidized by other drivers.

    One problem with a VMT tax is that it does not tax congestion or other inefficiencies like gas inefficiency. While many rural drivers drive inefficient vehicles, urban driving is inherently inefficient. I think it would be difficult in any case to line up the proper incentives to avoid congestion and make everyone satisfied.

  • avatar
    geeber

    KixStart: No, YOU go read what I wrote. I got 40 cars out of your way and replaced them all with just one bus.

    Happy now?

    You and those bus riders are still sitting in congestion, so getting 40 cars out of the way apparently didn’t make much difference…that is based on what you wrote.

    If congestion had been alleviated, your post would have said, “I noticed that people on the bus looked quite contented as traffic flowed smoothly to its ultimate destination.”

    But, you didn’t write that…I’m sorry that this makes you upset, but the simple fact is that most people, when they hear talk about alleviating congestion, don’t envision themselves still sitting in traffic, whether it’s in a car or in a bus.

    <M1EK: geeber, you are again actively trying to mislead. Urban non-drivers in Texas receive $0.00 in state support – they get a small amount of federal money from the federal gas tax; FAR outweighed by the diversions from the general fund for major arterial roadways and even the state highway system itself.

    The fact is that urban non-drivers living in the fine state of Texas benefit from federal gasoline and motor license funds revenues for non-road transportation projects. At the federal level, they are being subsidized by drivers, case closed. Unless they somehow pay federal gas taxes and motor license fees for the fun of it. I have no problem with this, but let’s drop the nonsense that drivers are getting some sort of free ride at the expense of everyone else, while bike path users and mass transit riders are not.

    Second, the fact that you claim that urban non-drivers in Texas receive no state support is not relevant to the rest of the nation (each state raises state transportation funds in its own way), nor does it prove that drivers throughout the nation are getting a free ride.

    And, third, you keep ignoring that a large portion of Texas gas tax revenues and license fees are diverted to the general fund. When this no longer occurs, we’ll talk.

    M1EK: Drivers ‘as a whole’ only ‘pay their own way’ in the sense that nearly everybody drives. In the sense that matters, i.e. whether they pay somewhat proportionally and fairly to the amount and type of driving they do, the jury is out: suburban drivers are welfare queens.

    Sorry, but no. And, considering that you are only talking about Texas, you can’t extrapolate what happens in Texas to every other state in the union. Each state is responsible for how it raises and spends the money generated by state taxes.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India