Missouri bill would nix pursuit of VMT

| 12/11/2009

A Missouri lawmaker is planning for the future with a bill that would prohibit the use of global positioning systems to monitor mileage traveled.

Confronted with dwindling fuel tax revenues as people are buying less fuel and driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, officials throughout the country are looking into other options to bolster sluggish transportation funding accounts. One option that is drawing increased attention from lawmakers at the state and federal levels of government is changing the way highway users are taxed – more specifically, charging truckers and others by the mile.

Rep. Joe Smith, R-St. Charles, has prefiled a bill for consideration during the upcoming regular session that would rein in use of the tax option. His bill specifies that no GPS or other technology identifying and recording a person’s location can be used to track mileage traveled as a tax revenue source.

While Smith acknowledges that Missouri is nowhere near implementing a VMT, he doesn’t want the state to sit on its hands until support for the initiative starts to grow.

“I don’t want this to happen in Missouri. If we can pass this now, it won’t cost us anything,” Smith told Land Line.

A similar effort is under review in Massachusetts. That legislation attempts to head off pursuit of a VMT by forbidding the state, counties, cities or towns to collect a tax based on the mileage a privately owned vehicle is driven.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says that while the VMT is drawing a lot of attention at the federal and state levels of government as a possible solution to the transportation funding crisis, it remains unproven. OOIDA executives believe more study is needed.

The Association feels there are many unanswered questions with a proposed VMT, especially considering that the federal bill does not call for a removal of a fuel tax if established. The current system of levying federal taxes on truckers is already discriminatory and harmful. OOIDA also has concerns about how the information gathered will be used, who will have access to it, if it will be shared and with whom.

Smith’s bill – HB1265 – can be considered during the session that begins Jan. 6.

Transportation funding is sure to be a topic of consideration while Missouri lawmakers are gathered. Smith said he expects two revenue methods to again get lots of attention.

“A tax increase is likely to be talked about. You have people in the cities that are going to be in favor of that approach,” he said. “Then you have rural Missouri. They always want to put toll roads throughout Missouri. They would love to make I-70 a toll road.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.