Congress May Adopt CBO Suggestion to Meter and Tax Miles We Drive

In my 35 years of being a member of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, most of those years were before ‘Fair Share’ legislation in Pennsylvania ended the plague of what were labeled the ‘Free Riders’—public workers who got all of the benefits the union negotiated without paying a penny in dues toward the costs. And now, it seems, our employees in the halls of the United States Congress are beginning to view the millions and millions of America’s drivers as ‘Free Riders’ in spite of the heavy gas taxes we all pay to fill our cars up.  

In a March 2011 Senate Budget Committee Hearing, Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) inquired of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the possibility of a vehicle mileage tax (VMT), “Do we do gas tax? Do we move to some kind of an assessment that is based on how many miles vehicles go, so that we capture revenue from those who are going to be using the roads who aren’t going to be paying any gas tax, or very little, with hybrids and electric cars?” 

According to a March 24, 2011 online report by Pete Kasperowicz for The Hill, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report this week suggesting metering the miles driven by every fuel-using vehicle in the United States (I guess that would exclude bicycles and horse-driven buggies) may be a prudent way of paying for highway repairs in times of otherwise dwindling federal highway funds. 

The report stated, “In the past, the efficiency costs of implementing a system of VMT charges — particularly the costs of users’ time for slowing and queuing at tollbooths — would clearly have outweighed the potential benefits from more efficient use of highway capacity.” The report declared, “Now, electronic metering and billing are making per-mile charges a practical option.” 

The report put forward the notion that a larger factor in highway repairs than fuel consumption was miles driven, and that having drivers pay for the real costs of highways “would involve imposing a combination of fuel taxes and per-mile charges,” and that, “If VMT taxes were collected at the pump, each time fuel was purchased, information would be sent from a device in the vehicle to a device at the filling station.” 

Different VMT tax rates could be assessed according to vehicle weight, the CBO suggested, because heavier vehicles damage roads more than passenger vehicles; and that rates could vary depending on miles driven at peak use times or during less congested hours. 

Few Americans would deny that America’s roads and bridges are in a dangerous state of disrepair. Yet, as many might wonder, where did all money in gas taxes over the last 50 years, meant to maintain those roads and bridges over time, go?  And now, just as our politicians are no longer interested in what is good for America, only what’s good for the Wall Street/International Corp/Koch Brothers Axis of Evil; just as the elected gut our cities, schools, and sell off or just give away to that axis everything generations of hard-working taxpayers paid for, they keep coming up with the most corrupt but innovative ways to keep squeezing us for the few cents remaining in our pockets. 

Now, they want to turn all of our cars into one gigantic Federal Taxi Cab Corps: We continue to drive those cars, pay insurance and maintenance and the price of gas; yet will also hear the every mile click of the Federal Taxi Cab Corporation’s installed meter every mile we travel on the roads we already paid for. 

What? You think they should raise taxes on the rich, instead?

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