Category Archives: News

Mileage Tax Builds Momentum as Alternative to Gas Tax

WASHINGTON — It is only a matter of time before the gas tax will have to be phased out and replaced with a tax on miles traveled to support the nation’s roads, said a room full of transportation policy officials and their congressional allies who met here Feb. 24.

The switch from fuel to mileage taxes could take place in six years, two U.S. representatives told the annual meeting of the Mileage-Based User Fee Alliance.

The nation’s infrastructure is falling apart at the same time “the Highway Trust Fund is in a death spiral,” which presents the opportunity to make transformative change in how the country funds transportation, said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a leading advocate of mileage taxes.

Blumenauer has introduced a measure to raise the federal gas and diesel tax 15 cents over three years until a mileage tax system is put in place.

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How Oregon’s Pioneering Road Usage Fee Will Work

Jim Whitty is the evangelist for Oregon’s pioneering road user fee pilot program which begins on July 1.

Other states are watching how Whitty and Oregon conduct a 5,000-vehicle pilot program in which volunteers will pay a road usage charge of 1.5 cents per mile for the number of miles they drive, instead of the fuel tax. Drivers will get a credit on their bill to offset the fuel tax they pay.

Whitty, manager of the Office of Innovative Partnerships & Alternative Funding for Oregon’s Department of Transportation, is a wry, self-deprecating salesman for the program.

At the second annual conference of the Mileage-Based User Fee Alliance Tuesday, Whitty made a number of interesting points.

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Vendors Look To Reap Revenues From User Fee System

The shift from the gasoline tax to mileage-based user fees which Oregon is launching this year, which California will be testing in 2017, and which other states may follow isn’t just a way for states to pay for transportation infrastructure, it’s a business opportunity for vendors such as Verizon Telematics and Sanef.

Telematics, data collection, and information technology companies envision a world in which, if drivers agree to turn over their driving data to the vendor, they get the benefits of:

  • usage-based insurance (which could give more precise evidence of one’s safety as a driver than current insurance systems);
  • remote vehicle diagnostics;
  • emissions reporting (without having to go into a state emissions station for onsite testing);
  • monitoring of teenage drivers in your family to make sure they aren’t going 95 miles per hour down the interstate highway.

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ODOT launches OReGO to educate drivers about Oregon’s Road Usage Charge Program

The nation’s first per-mile charging system will launch in Oregon July 1, 201

SALEM — Freedom. Adventure. Responsibility. Oregonians expressed these values most often when asked to describe what Oregon’s Road Usage Charge Program should represent. By popular preference, the road usage charge program is now named “OReGO” and will be signified by the logo above (file attached below).

ODOT this week launched, the program’s official website, where anyone interested in the road usage charge program can sign up for the interest list and indicate an intent to volunteer; or, they can learn how the program will work and how it came to be law in Oregon.

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Assembly speaker wants new fee to pay for road repairs

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins proposed a plan Wednesday for funding road maintenance with $1.8 billion in fees on California drivers.

The fees would total roughly $52 annually for most people behind the wheel, according to preliminary details released by the speaker’s office.

“California’s roads and transportation infrastructure simply aren’t in the shape they need to be in order to keep people and goods moving,” said Atkins (D-San Diego), who announced the proposal during a forum on transportation policies in Sacramento.

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A Plague of Potholes

Cheap gas? Great. More fuel-efficient cars? Awesome. Weak gas-tax revenues when roads are falling apart? Neither great nor awesome.

When state officials last year surveyed the road conditions of California’s 482 cities and 58 counties, the results were troubling. The metric by which streets are graded ​— ​Pavement Condition Index, or PCI ​— ​has been falling since 2008. Santa Barbara County’s PCI is 60 out of 100 compared to the state’s 66. If current maintenance funding levels continue, those numbers will keep dropping over the next decade.

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Whatever road is taken for highway funds, there's a need for speed

Fuel-efficient cars are great for the air and the planet. But they’re lousy for our highways, especially those battery-powered vehicles. Let me remind you why.

The more gasoline we buy, the more gas tax we pay. And it’s the gas tax that funds road repairs, smoothing the pavement and filling those jarring potholes.

We’ve been pumping fewer and fewer gallons of gasoline per vehicle over the years, and our roads are showing it. California has about the worst pavement in the nation — 48th by one study — and it’s because gas tax revenue has tanked.

Roads don’t care whether a vehicle is a gas guzzler or running on a battery, compressed natural gas or hydrogen. The automobile does the same damage to pavement.

Twenty years ago the average U.S. car got 20 miles per gallon. Today it gets 35. Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal estimates that gas tax revenue will decline by roughly $1.2 billion between 2014 and 2016. Meanwhile, 33 million vehicles are pounding the roads.

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Government Has More Than Enough of Your Dollars

After years of debt, deficits and budget cuts, it may come as a surprise to learn that our state government is flush with cash. But you wouldn’t know it by the talk of tax increases coming out of Sacramento.

First the facts:

1. California is outspending other states – As the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters recently reported, census data shows California state spending jumped 7.5% last fiscal year and is well above average when compared to other states.

2. The Governor’s proposed budget is huge – In January, Governor Jerry Brown unveiled a $113 billion budget proposal-the largest ever in California state history. If there’s any criticism of the Governor’s budget so far, it’s that he is underestimating revenues. The Legislative Analyst’s Office recently reported that current fiscal year revenues alone will exceed the Governor’s forecast by $1 to $2 billion or more.

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