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Should state consider a vehicle miles traveled tax?

Staff Report • Aug 9, 2013 at 10:00 AM

There has been talk in recent years about Tennessee raising its share of the gas tax, but state legislators have shown no political will to follow that course. Tennesseans now pay 21.4 cents in state taxes for every gallon of gas they pump. That’s in addition to the 18.5 cents per gallon they pay to the federal government. According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the state’s current gas tax yields more than $665.7 million per year. It sounds like a lot, but state officials say revenues from the gas tax fall far short of that needed to fund road projects. TDOT has seen its funding for new road construction stretched to the limit, which has prompted state legislators to look at other options for funding state highway and bridge projects. One of those solutions has been toll roads.Some states are now experimenting with a new concept, one that is sure to generate debate among motorists with long daily commutes. The state of Oregon is now studying the idea of a vehicle miles traveled tax. Seventeen other states — including North Carolina — have flirted with the idea of taxing the miles driven, not the gas used. As the National Conference of State Legislatures noted on its website recently: “Drivers with gas guzzlers would do well under the new program. Oregon’s gas tax is currently 30 cents a gallon. The mileage tax under the legislation would be 1.5 cents a gallon. So anyone driving a car averaging fewer than 20 miles per gallon would pay less money under the mileage tax than the gas tax and maybe even get a refund.”You can Sound off on this topic by telling us what you think of the idea of taxing motorists by the miles they drive. Send your comments to Mailbag, Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on Opinion pages in the coming weeks.

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