This is cute: A Utah lawmaker (cliick) says electric/hybrid vehicles don’t buy enough gasoline, so they aren’t paying their fair share of road taxes. He’s suggesting a special fee.
That’s interesting considering this bunch’s dismissive attitude toward new taxes, but I can actually see his argument. Utah made the mistake of linking funding for roads to a tax added to the price of gasoline, and then idiotically neglected to make the tax a percentage of the price of the gasoline so it would automatically adjust for inflation. Instead, the state collects the same old boring flat rate whether gasoline costs $1 a gallon or $10.
They did this originally back in pre-history when all cars got 17 miles per gallon and gasoline sold for 30 cents a gallon. The current tax is 24.5 cents per gallon. Compressed Natural Gas is 8.5 cents per gallon — another fee target?
Problem is, as gasoline edges up to $5 a gallon, people naturally want to use less of it, so hybrid vehicles are suddenly popular. This switch to conservation is threatening funding for road projects.
Since our dependence on gasoline is ruining our country by making us slaves to Saudi Arabia, we ought to be encouraging people to use less, not figuring out ways to punish them once they do.
So, my first thinking is, of course “so build fewer roads and let people use mass transit,” but that’s too easy, and doesn’t keep contractors happy. Contractors are huge campaign doners. It also doesn’t pay for maintenance of the roads we have.
So, here’s my idea: Ditch the per-gallon tax we charge now, and instead tax vehicles based on their weight. Trucks already are taxed this way, so it would be simple enough to extend it to cars. Just figure out how much we need to raise every year, calculate the manufacturer’s weight of all the 1.7 million cars on Utah’s roads, do some simple “price-per-pound” math, and there you are.
This would let car drivers see, in one nice tidy lump, how much their share of the state’s road maintenance and building really is.
(How much is it? Using the current gas tax, my car, driven 10,000 miles a year, getting 24 mpg, paying 24.5 cents per gallon, pays $98. Being almost, sort of mid-sized, I might end up paying more.)
Hybrid vehicles would still be at an advantage here, because hybrid cars weigh less to keep mileage up. But that’s OK, because lighter cars do less road damage than heavier ones do. This would also be another incentive — apparently $100 fillups aren’t enough — for people who own big ugly pickup trucks to finally downsize.
Yes, yes, I know: Who am I to tell you that you can’t have a big ugly pickup truck?
Not saying that at all. Just saying if you have one you should pay the true costs to the roads of owning one, just as people who buy light vehicles will be able to benefit by paying less. Do you think my road taxes should fund your big truck? What are you, a socialist or something?
Doing away with the tax at the pump would also have the added advantage — if you want to call it that — of making Utah gasoline immediately 24.5 cents a gallon cheaper. For a few days, people would be happier.