Talk about a regressive tax — especially when it comes to privacy and environmental issues.
In a desperate search for new revenues, the Florida Department of Transportation has begun discussing the possibility of creating a vehicle-miles-traveled tax (VMT).
How would it work? Currently, when Florida drivers fill up at the pump, they pay 341⁄2 cents a gallon in state taxes. The state DOT uses this revenue to fund bridge and road projects. But there’s a problem: Floridians aren’t buying nearly as much gasoline as they used to. The downturn in the state’s economy, coupled with high gas prices, have forced many motorists to reduce vehicle travel and pursue alternate forms of transportation. Consequently, there’s a $7 billion shortfall in Florida DOT’s five-year work program.
The proposed solution? Tax motorists for each mile they drive, not on the gas they put in their cars.
How would the state track the number of miles traveled? In a test case in Oregon, GPS devices were placed on a fleet of cars. Mileage information was then transmitted to authorities each time drivers filled up.
It’s hard to be fair, but this one isn’t even halfway there.
There are two major problems.
First, do Floridians want Big Brother looking over our shoulder and monitoring every mile we drive? No. It’s one thing for government to tax the purchase of fuel. But when government actively tracks the number of miles each motorist drives, it encroaches on the privacy of its citizens.
Second, at a time when more and more Americans are becoming environmentally conscious — purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles to help reduce the environmental impacts of harmful emissions — the VMT tax provides a clear disincentive to “go green.”
Under this proposal, high-mileage cars would pay the same tax as gas-guzzling SUVs. Preposterous.
Motorists who make the switch to fuel-efficient vehicles should be rewarded, not punished, for helping to preserve the environment and reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
In the pantheon of potential tax ideas, the VMT tax is nothing but road kill. State officials need to leave it on the side of the road.