A lot has changed in the decades since Washington began collecting a gas tax. Cars have become more or less efficient, oil prices have changed, as has inflation.
Now, the state gets about a third of the value previously taken in by the gas tax, and state officials are trying to find ways to remedy that, according to KIRO Radio’s Tom and Curley Show. And the answer may come from Washington’s southern neighbor.
Oregon is currently testing a program to tax-per-mile driven on the road. The pilot program is being tested by a volunteer fleet of drivers.
Could Washington do the same? After all, there has already been a range of leaders in the state who have come out in support of a pay-per-mile tax.
Surprisingly, KIRO Radio’s John Curley — a Libertarian — told co-host Tom Tangney — an avid public transit rider — that a pay-per-mile program is something he can support.
Tom Tangney: The way we fund our roads now, by 2040 that funding system won’t hold up. And we need to switch to a pay-by-mile tax. The idea is that you drop the gas tax and replace it with a pay by mile tax. This does make sense as a user fee — you drive more, you pay more. The concern is that we will add back the gas tax after we get this in place. I don’t have a problem with that approach. If roads cost X amount, and we need to pay for them, we have to figure out a funding mechanism.
John Curley: I’m a big fan of pay by the mile. All the dollars go to local governments that own the roads. And you can vary the fee so you can incentivize people to use roads at different times — which can cut down on congestion. My problem is when roads become a cultural issue. A road is not a cultural issue. A car is not a cultural issue. We need to get that ideology out of legislators coming up with laws and regulations. They make it a cultural battle, instead of it being freedom to move in the most efficient way to move from point A to point B.
TT: Is that a clever way to say “mass transit?”
JC: Yeah. It’s already been proven that people don’t want it. They don’t use it.
TT: That’s not true. We vote for our representatives who put in Sound Transit…But (back to the gas tax) another concern people have about this is how the government is going to keep track of how many miles you drive?
JC: It’s really simple. On your gas tank what will happen is when the gas nozzle goes in, it will know how many miles have been driving. Basically, it keeps track every time you stop to go get gas.