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Vermont Not Alone In Grappling With Gas Tax Changes

By Steve ZindThere was a lot of response to Tuesday’s Vermont Edition program on changing the gas tax.  The idea is in play in the legislature because of a shortfall in the transportation fund which pays for highway and bridge repairs.This Council On Foreign Relations “Renewing America” blog post gives a brief, broad overview of the nation’s deteriorating road conditions and the inability of gas taxes to pay for needed repairs.It appears that Vermont may abandon the tradition of imposing a tax that is a set amount per gallon and follow the precedent set by Virginia which has imposed the tax as a percentage of the price per gallon.Another idea is the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax.As this 2012 report from the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation says the advantages of the VMT tax include:

  • Fair allocation of the cost of maintaining roads and bridges.
  • Encouraging drivers to reduce travel.
  • Cuttting energy use.

The report suggests a rate of 13 cents a mile.“This option is a long term solution that would require significant policy changes before implementation,” the report concludes.Tracking vehicle mileage could be accomplished using the on-board GPS units in cars that have them (which raises privacy issues) or taking annual odometer readings.Whether or not they choose to go the VMT route, many believe that states will have to come to grips with the impact of fuel efficient vehicles on revenues raised through the gas tax.  A so-called ‘Prius Tax’ that would levy a higher registration feel on fuel efficient vehicles has been discussed in Montpelier.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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