Abolishing the U.S. gasoline tax and replacing it with a levy based on miles driven could happen “tomorrow” regardless of hurdles to implementing it, said a former top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The gasoline tax, which Congress hasn’t raised since 1993, needs to be ended because lawmakers won’t increase it, former Representative Steve LaTourette said today in an interview at Bloomberg’s Washington office. Policymakers could immediately replace it with a tax of about 1 1/2 cents per mile that could be collected in ways that alleviate privacy concerns, he said.
“I think we could do it tomorrow,” said LaTourette, who represented Ohio. “But then you get the black helicopter people saying if you put something in my car, you’d know I was at my girlfriend’s house last night.”
The existing taxes are 18.4 cents a gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents on diesel fuel.
Lawmakers are due to reauthorize a bill next year on surface transportation spending and will have to decide how to replace declining revenue in the Highway Trust Fund or how to cut spending on highways and transit as usage of both increases.
LaTourette retired from Congress this year and is chief executive officer of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of politically centrist Republicans, and president of McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies.
Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster in December revived the concept of considering a vehicle-miles tax, which the committee last year blocked from even being studied. President Barack Obama’s spokesman in 2009 rebuked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican in a Democratic administration, for discussing it.
Replacing the $54.5 billion raised for highway and transit projects from fuel taxes and other sources would require an average vehicle-miles tax rate of about 1.8 cents a mile, according to data compiled by the Federal Highway Administration. That’s based on the 2.97 trillion miles (4.77 trillion kilometers) driven in 2010. A motorist driving 12,000 miles a year, at that rate, would pay about $216 a year.
With fuel efficiency increasing and more hybrid and electric vehicles on the roads, LaTourette said the miles tax would be a fairer way of sharing the costs of using highways than the gasoline tax, which is based on the amount of fuel purchased.