Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Advocates of distance based road pricing look to Oregon in the coming months

I've written before about Oregon's efforts to develop a Vehicle Mileage Tax intended for the most fuel efficient vehicles to replace its fuel tax.  It has successfully run a pilot of various technologies and systems, with the intention being that it become a mandatory requirement for all vehicles with a fuel efficiency above the threshold of 55 Miles per Gallon (5.1 litres per 100km).   Key is choice, with there being technology and non-technology options, with both private and public sector provided options.

It is expected that there will be vote this week in the Oregon House of Representatives for House Bill (HB) 2354B in the House Revenue Committee.  The expectation is that it will be passed onto the Joint House-Senate Ways and Means Committee.  HB2354B identifies all vehicles that get an estimated 55 MPG or better being subject to distance based tax.

In the Senate, there is a Bill (810A) that provides for a volunteer programme of 5,000 to choose to pay on a distance basis in the state.  

It may be that the Bills will merge meaning that (guess) all vehicle 55MPG or better get taxed up to the first 5,000 that want to volunteer (although I'm unsure quite why many would do so).   If it were up to me, I'd start off with all newly registered vehicles (there are hardly any in that category now anyway).

The House Bill needs a 60% majority because it is a new, mandatory, tax measure. The Senate Bill, because it authorises a voluntary measure, only needs a simple majority to pass.

Whatever happens, one of the bills or a merged one may go for a vote in the next month or so.  That would authorise the implementation of the first VMT/distance based road usage charging system in the USA for cars.

It would be a huge step in policy, albeit a small impact on almost all Oregonians. However, it would provide a basis to protect future revenues for highways in the state.  As vehicles become more and more fuel efficient, more will shift from paying by fuel tax to paying by distance.

If Oregon demonstrates that this can be done, in a way that largely has public acceptability, that doesn't threaten privacy or mean people are paying more than they should for roads, then it opens the door for other US states (and other countries) to start making this transition. 

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