Thursday, August 27, 2009

'Cash for Clunkers' program used as reason to push "vehicle miles tax" by Texas Transportation Commission

TxDOT Looking at "Per Mile' Gas Tax

'Cash for Clunkers' is helping drive up gas mileage, drive down gas tax revenue to state


By Jim Forsyth
KQXT-FM (San Antonio)
Copyright 2009

Cash for Clunkers was a big success, but the program is speeding up a proposal by TxDOT to look into a so called 'vehicle miles tax,' 1200 WOAI news reports.

The Cash for Clunkers program was just the latest in a series of initiatives to get Texans into more fuel efficient vehicles.

But the more fuel efficient cars get and the fewer miles Texans drive, that means the less money TxDOT receives in gasoline tax revenue, which is used largely to build and repair highways.

And Ted Houghton, who is a member of the Texas Transportation Commission, says lawmakers have repeatedly declined to raise the gas tax to make up that difference.

"The legislature is not going to do what they should be doing and need to be doing, the federal government's not going to do it, so what are you going to have left?" Houghton asked.

TxDOT today will open discussion on what is called a VMT, or Vehicle Miles Tax. It is a way to collect gasoline taxes not based on the amount of gasoline you buy, but on the amount of miles you drive.

"Whatever the gamut of ideas out there, somebody, and I think it's our responsibility, to put them on the table for decision making," said TTC chair Deidre Delisi.

The idea of a VMT has been floated for years, and the State of Oregon has tested the idea of using GPS devices to track the number of miles a car drives during a month, and then bill the motorist based on a 'toll' system.

What is not clear is how the tax would be collected, how much the tax would be, or whether drivers would be able to use tricks to 'game' the system.

Houghton says any proposals discussed by the TTC will simply by presented to the Legislature in the 2011 session for further consideration.

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