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Debates about Mileage Base Taxes

Officials Seek Way to Fill a Gas Tax Gap
A Boost for the Mileage Tax

New York Times (Friess, 03/07/2009) reports that “With gas tax revenue declining and fuel efficiency the holy grail of car manufacturers, officials across the country are testing systems that could move Americans from paying a per-gallon tax at the pump to some form of fee based on road usage.”

Millions of dollars are being spent on such mileage-based taxes or fees despite some privacy concerns over the notion of governments monitoring motorists’ driving habits. The issue suddenly “bubbled up” at the media recently, however, because of some interesting and inconsistent voices from the White House.

President Obama’s transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, said the administration was considering some form of a “vehicles miles traveled” tax to replace the federal fuel tax. The next day, Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, issued a stern rejoinder at his daily briefing that supporting such a tax “is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration.”

Apparently sympathetic to Ray LaHood, Washington Post (03/01/2009) offers an editorial arguing “why an idea the While House dismissed has promise.” To make a case for a mileage tax, the editorial cites a recent report by the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, which “unanimously called for a 10-cents-a-gallon boost in the federal gas tax and an eventual transition to a mileage tax.”


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Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs