Pay-per-mile tax faces vote later this year by commission
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Transportation Commission is expected to vote later this year on a proposal to replace the gas tax with a pay-per-mile system.
The vote will take place Dec. 17, after the commission is expected to receive a report in October from a panel that has studied the new type of tax, The Olympian reported Wednesday. Any recommendation voted on by the commission will then be passed on to the Legislature to consider during its next legislative session that starts in January.
Commission chairman Jerry Litt says it’s too early to say how the commission will vote. He said he expects many state residents would pay more under a pay-per-mile tax, which the state calls a “road usage charge.”
Litt was part of a pilot project on replacing the gas tax with one based on how far people drive. A rate of 2.4 cents per mile was set for the yearlong project so participants could figure out how much they would have to pay compared to the state portion of the gas tax, which is 49.5 cents per gallon.
Litt said the amount he would have paid varied from $2 to $8 more.
A consulting group presented its findings to the transportation commission on the project that involved 2,000 volunteers who reported their mileage, which enabled them to determine if they paid more or less than under the gas tax. Of the nearly 1,500 people who answered survey questions, 33% said the state should phase in a pay-per-mile tax to replace the gas tax over five to 10 years and 28% percent said the change should be as soon as the program can be ready.
Those surveyed also expressed concern that a tax based on the distance people drive would disproportionately affect rural motorists and lower-income householders who live farther away from work because of housing prices.
Sen. Rebecca Saldana, vice chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the state is considering a pay-per-mile charge because she says more fuel-efficient vehicles have eroded the state’s ability to rely long term on the gas tax for transportation needs.
Saldana said if the Legislature supports a pay-per-mile system, it would have to be phased in over 10 to 25 years because the state has sold bonds for transportation projects based on revenue from the gas tax and those bonds would have to paid off before the state replaced the gas tax completely with a pay-per-mile system.
During that 10-to-25-year period, the state would maintain a system where the gas tax remains in place along with a pay-per-mile tax that would be phased in, she said. Owners of passenger vehicles and pickups would owe either the pay-per-mile tax or the gas tax — but not both. Commercial vehicles and trucks would be exempt.
Information from: The Olympian, http://www.theolympian.com