NEWS BLOG (WSAU) We’re driving more fuel efficient cars. Some of us are driving electric plug-ins. The typical driver uses less gasoline. And that means less gas tax revenue forWisconsin.
So now comes the proposal to tax drivers by-the-mile. You’d have to report the numbers on your odometer once a year. The state will do the math, apply a formula, and send you a bill – probably tacked onto your annual vehicle registration. It wouldn’t matter if your car is powered by gasoline, diesel, electricity, switchgrass, or left over french-fry grease – you’d pay for the privilege of using public roads.
For those who like the usage tax idea, there’s one problem: we already have a usage tax. You pay it at the pump when you fuel up. The more you drive, the more you pay.
By the way, supporters of the odometer-based tax are not proposing doing away with per-gallon taxes. If the current gasoline tax were going to be scrapped, we might have something to talk about. But that can’t happen. If the price of gasoline were reduced overnight by 39-cents, we’d drive more (which is sacrilege to environmentalists) or the market would raises prices in the name of raw profit giving drivers, maybe, half of the savings.
The state argues that we need the revenue. We have a $9-billion shortfall for transportation projects that are already being planned but are not yet funded. That’s a number that should be scrutinized and reduced. InWisconsin, we dream up expensive highway projects that solve problems that simply don’t exist. (Consider Wausau’s fancy 51-29 interchange, where, before this project there were never any traffic back-ups.) Imagine there was no dedicated highway fund and road projects had to compete with all other state spending priorities. Then we’d get down to what’s necessary, and eliminate the frivolous. But give state transportation planners more money based on your odometer reading, and watch how quickly fly-over interchanges get planned for Merrill, Tomahawk, and Rhinelander.