- A Member of Congress proposes to use taxpayer money to
fund the development of technology to track motorists as part of a new
form of taxation. US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) introduced
H.R. 3311 earlier this year to appropriate $154,500,000 for research and
study into the transition to a per-mile vehicle tax system. The "Road
User Fee Pilot Project" would be administered by the US Treasury Department.
This agency in turn would issue millions in taxpayer-backed grants to well-connected
commercial manufacturers of tolling equipment to help develop the required
technology. Within eighteen months of the measure's passage, the department
would file an initial report outlining the best methods for adopting the
new federal transportation tax.
- "Oregon has successfully tested a Vehicle Miles
Traveled (VMT) fee, and it is time to expand and test the VMT program across
the country," Blumenauer said in a statement on the bill's introduction.
"A VMT system can better assess fees based on use of our roads and
bridges, as well as during times of peak congestion, than a fee based on
fuel consumption. It is time to get creative and find smart ways to rebuild
and renew America's deteriorating infrastructure."
- In 2006, the Oregon Department of Transportation completed <http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/04/442.asp>its
own study of how to collect revenue from motorists with a new form
of tax that, like the existing fuel excise tax, imposes a greater charge
on drivers the more that they drive. The pilot project's final report summed
up the need for a VMT tax.
- "Unfortunately, there is a growing perception among
members of the public and legislators that fuel taxes have little to do
with road programs and therefore should be considered 'just another form
of taxation,'" the March 2006 report stated. "By itself, this
situation appears to be preventing any increases in fuel tax rates from
being put into effect."
- The money diverted from the fuel excise tax on non-road
related projects must be made up for with a brand new VMT tax, the report
argued. Merely indexing the gas tax to inflation or improvements in fleet <http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/uncle-sam-eyes-vehicle-tracking-tax/#>gas
mileage was rejected as "imprecise." Instead, the report
urged a mandate for all drivers to install GPS tracking devices that would
report driving habits to roadside Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
- Blumenauer is a long-time advocate of bicycling and mass
transit in Congress. Many of his largest campaign donors stand to benefit
from his newly introduced legislation. Honeywell International, for example,
is a major manufacturer RFID equipment. The company also happens to be
the second biggest contributor in the current cycle to Blumenauer's Political
Action Committee (PAC), the Committee for a Livable Future. Another top-ten
donor, Accenture, is a specialist in the video tolling field.
- H.R. 3311 awaits a hearing in the House Ways and Means
Committee. A copy of the bill is available in a 170k PDF file at the source
- HR 3311 (Congress of the United States, 9/14/2009)