Eye On Olympia

Lawmakers call for look at paying road taxes by the mile, rather than at the gas pump...


East Side Highway District supervisor John Pankratz inspects the poor condition of Mullan Trail Road, east of Coeur d'Alene. The district is having a levy election this Tuesday. 
 (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
East Side Highway District supervisor John Pankratz inspects the poor condition of Mullan Trail Road, east of Coeur d'Alene. The district is having a levy election this Tuesday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

From today's story about the Senate transportation plan:

The Senate is also calling for a study of how the state, which relies heavily on gas tax revenue to pay for roads, can keep paying those bills as motorists continue switching to high-mileage and electric vehicles.

“We have a long-term problem: Cars are getting more efficient, and people are driving less,” said Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. While that may be good for the environment, it also means that the state is collecting less gas tax than expected.

In fact, Haugen said, it now looks like recent gas tax increases that were expected to pay for 16 years’ worth of transportation projects will be used up by 2015. So the budget also calls for a study of how else to get people to pay to use the roads.

“The fact is, gas tax is the most unreliable tax going forward,” said Haugen. “I don’t know what the fuel of the future will be, but I doubt it will be petroleum.”

Several lawmakers said Wednesday that the state may eventually have a “vehicle miles traveled” tax based on how much people drive. Haugen also said that toll roads will become more common.

“We’re looking at those sorts of things. They’re years away,” said Sen. Fred Jarrett, D-Mercer Island.

(State Sen. Chris) Marr said he’s talked with electric-car advocates about whether they’re willing to pay a tax in lieu of gas tax. They seemed open to the idea, he said.

“Let’s face it, (electric cars) create wear and tear and congestion on the highway system,” said Marr. It’s not fair, he said, for the costs to be born just by gas and diesel users.




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