Federal vehicle mileage tax: still speculation for now
05/02/2009 - 9:46:08 pm
Chairman James Oberstar, D-MN, called for a closed-door review of whether a tax on vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, would or should be considered in the next surface transportation authorization bill that is expected to emerge from the committee within weeks.
Some have interpreted Oberstar’s statements as an endorsement of a VMT tax, but a committee spokesman said Oberstar merely called for more discussion and also said that it’s too early to speculate whether a VMT tax will be part of the next authorization.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-OR, got the ball rolling on Wednesday, April 29, during a hearing on high-priority projects.
Blumenauer asked the committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit to include a VMT pilot program for all 50 states in the authorization bill. Blumenauer’s home state has piloted its own VMT program at the state level for a couple of years.
“Why do we need a pilot program? Why don’t we just phase this in?” Oberstar asked in response to the request.
“There are many suggestions it would take five- to 10 years. I think it could be done in far less than that, maybe two years.”
Oberstar then called for a meeting, not a hearing, of committee Democrats and Republicans to discuss VMT.
A T&I Committee spokesman said it’s too early to tell how or even if a VMT will be considered or whether it would mean the eventual phase-out of the federal tax on motor fuels.
“In reality, that decision has not yet been made, so any questions about a phase-in, or other details of a plan that does not yet exist, are premature,” spokesman Jim Berard told Land Line.
The leadership of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says that while a VMT concept has captured the imagination of some, any program to phase out the fuel tax is still a long way off.
OOIDA stands by the fuel tax as the fairest way for highway users to pay for infrastructure and transportation programs.
– By David Tanner, staff writer Land Line Magazine