WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

Filed Under:

Virginia Shies Away From Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax

Play associated audio
Virginia is examining funding options for transportation infrastructure, but there isn't much momentum for a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankbryan/1474188504/http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankbryan/1474188504/
Virginia is examining funding options for transportation infrastructure, but there isn't much momentum for a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax.

Key votes are expected this week in the Virginia General Assembly on Governor Bob McDonnell's transportation funding plan that would replace the state gas tax with a higher sales tax. Another transportation tax, known as the vehicles miles traveled tax, will not be on the table, however.

Not a single state in the country charges a VMT, but there are efforts to establish the tax, which tracks all the miles drivers travel in their cars and charges them fees based on the distances.

At a time when federal and state governments are struggling to adequately fund the maintenance, operation and construction of transportation projects, a VMT tax has the potential to increase revenues and directly allocate them to the most heavily traveled road networks, says Rob Puentes, a transportation policy expert at the Brookings Institution.

"If you are driving on the Beltway during rush hour consistently adding to the traffic on those highly congested roads, you'd be paying more, and then those revenues would go back to the road you are using," says Puentes. VMT taxes would mark a fundamental change, which is why several obstacles stand in its way.

"The technology is generally there but there are an awful lot of political, institutional, and general public policy concerns that we still have to deal with," Puentes says.

The biggest concern may be privacy. Eighty-six percent of area commuters would oppose having a GPS device installed in their car to track their miles, according to a study by the Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board released last week.

"There are lot of measures that can be put in place to insure that personal information is not being used or exploited, but you really have to do a good job of convincing the motoring public that privacy concerns are going to be dealt with in a very clear way," Puentes said.

Politically, few politicians have shown the willingness to try to convince drivers of the merits of VMT. Oregon, which is generally considered to be the state that's pioneering most of the research and the policy analysis around the miles-traveled concept, is doing so because a state law required lawmakers to consider it, Puentes says.

Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer is pushing a bill in the U.S. House that would require the U.S. Treasury Department to study VMT. Because the tax involves interstate commerce, federal legislation would likely be necessary, Puentes says.

NPR

Tampa Hosts Bollywood's Biggest Stars At Annual Awards Show

India's Bollywood film industry is increasingly reaching a world-wide audience. To highlight the international appeal, the industry holds its annual awards ceremony every year outside of India.
NPR

Got My Goat? Vermont Farms Put Fresh Meat On Refugee Tables

Americans don't eat much barbecued goat, but the meat is a mainstay in many African, Asian and Caribbean diets. In Vermont, farmers raise for refugees and immigrants, with hopes to mainstream it.
WAMU 88.5

On National Mall, Native Americans Protest Keystone XL Pipeline

Native Americans from across the country are visiting Washington this week to protest the construction of a controversial pipeline in the Midwest.
NPR

Life Outside The Fast Lane: Startups Wary Of Web Traffic Plan

The Federal Communications Commission's proposal would let Web companies pay for faster access. But entrepreneurs, like Reddit's co-founder, are wondering how they would have fared with such rules.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.