Oregon, other states pursue alternatives to fuel tax

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/19/2013

A new Oregon law encourages motorists to experiment with a per-mile road tax as state lawmakers throughout the country push the federal government to ante up for similar programs.

The National Conference of State Legislatures wants the feds to create a $20 million fund to help states look for alternatives to fuel taxes to pay for road and bridge work.

A resolution adopted at the NCSL’s annual conference in Atlanta would allot up to $2 million to states. The money would be used to support state-level pilot programs to come up with other options to the excise tax.

Oregon state Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro, introduced the resolution. He wrote that “revenues for our transportation system continue to decline with vehicles becoming ever more fuel efficient and changing travel patterns nationwide.”

Starr indicated that the nation’s transportation infrastructure faces a funding gap of nearly $94 billion annually based on current spending.

Starr also worked on a new rule signed into law by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. Previously SB810, the new law implements a vehicle miles traveled fee for motorists. Truckers driving in the state already pay a tax based on weight and distance traveled.

The state’s new program for motorists will start in 2015 using volunteers. As many as 5,000 motorists will pay by the mile using GPS technology or at the pump via a wireless transponder.

Meanwhile, volunteers will continue to pay fuel taxes at the pump. The state will reimburse motorists the difference between the fuel taxes and the amount owed in mileage taxes.

The motorists’ mileage tax rate will be 1.5 cents per mile.

Elsewhere, Nevada transportation officials are moving forward with a study on road-funding options. Specifically, the department will look at a VMT tax.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said he wants the study done in time for the 2015 regular session. The Nevada Legislature only meets for regular work during odd-numbered years.

OOIDA opposes changing or replacing the current system of collecting user fees on fuel taxes. Association representatives say it’s unnecessary to create a new bureaucracy to collect fees.

Ryan Bowley, OOIDA’s director of government affairs, said the costs involved to keep the new system up and running would likely result in fewer dollars actually making it to roads and bridges.

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