Man there was quite the firestorm on the blogs today about the idea floated on a VMT tax by Secretary LaHood. Apparently it was such a bad idea to the Obama administration that they smacked down the idea later in the day. While that was the political thing to do, I'm not sure it was the smart thing to do. I'd like to see more studies on it before we come with a verdict.
Lets take a look at all the comments we saw today from progressives on a number of different blogs...
1. It will hurt the poor
2. It will cost a lot
3. It invades my privacy
4. It was proposed by a Republican
5. Why not just raise the gas tax?
6. Why not have a complicated weight and energy efficiency tax
7. Why do we even need a GPS collector instead of just reading odometers
8. It's hard for shift workers to take transit
9. Heavy trucks do more damage
10. My Prius driving will be punished
11. Senators will vote no because they are from low density states
12. If fuel efficiency goes to zero where does money for roads come from?
13. How about better road surfaces?
14. We'll need an electricity tax in ten years
15. We're not taxing vegetable oil for carbon
16. The only house I could afford was on the periphery
17. I don't want to pay anymore money for highways
18. What do miles driven have to do with anything?
19. A mileage tax doesn't distinguish between a hybrid and a hummer
20. People in Idaho live far away from where they work
21. I prefer to pay the traditional way, gas tax
22. Cheap gas is a birthright
23. It might encourage people to live closer to work
24. Miles tax is a GOP plan to save the gas guzzler
25. I don't want to punish people who live in rural areas
26. It's a trucking industry ploy to keep freight off the rails
27. I have a libertarian streak so i don't like it
Honestly, to me a lot of these are silly, but I thought you all would get a small chuckle.
The reasons for a mileage tax would be to push people into really thinking about how far away from work and other amenities they are living. They are already paying the price for their decisions given that people in location efficient areas can spend very little on transportation costs while folks in the worst sprawl spend up to 25% or more, but with a mileage tax, they'll be thinking about it even more. As that TXDOT study said (it's subsequently been taken off their site), a heavily traveled road in Houston would need $2.22 a gallon in taxes to actually pay for it. Many of the arguments for an increased gas tax would never likely get up that high, and that is actually the low end of what is really needed according to TXDOT, and that is just for federal and state roads, not bike lanes, transit and sidewalks/city streets.
I'm not saying that we don't need to make people pay for the negative externalities of the weight of thier vehicle or the gasoline they guzzle, but people need to start connecting the dots on housing and transportation costs that are killing family budgets and they lifestyles and driving patterns that lead to them. I'm not going to toss the mileage fee out yet. It might be a good idea or a bad idea. Let's just wait and see when the trials in Oregon and other places are completed instead of just throwing it out right away. There are plenty of arguments each way, I look forward to seeing them all.