One thing I’m fond of saying on the radio is “Stupid spreads like a cold on a plane.” Mostly because it does. And mostly because that “stupid” is generally some progressive idea of governance, some plan or proposal to “fix” whatever the issue du jour happens to be. Generally, it’s a problem government action helped create in the first place. There’s always something, isn’t there?
Have you heard of the VMT? It stands for vehicle miles traveled, and it is progressives’ latest attempt to plug ever-growing state budget gaps caused by, alas, progressive policies.
VMT is being tested in Washington and Oregon as a “voluntary” alternative to state gas taxes. California is considering following suit. In exchange for a rebate of the gas taxes you paid—more than 50 cents per gallon in California—drivers agree to pay a per-mile tax.
There are some catches, as there always are.
First, you have to pay the gas tax when you buy your gas and wait for a rebate, which is akin to giving the government an interest-free loan till your rebate arrives. Also, at least I’d imagine, you have to have a stockpile of receipts. Lose some or all of them and you’re out of luck. Governments aren’t known for accepting the honor system when it comes to you getting your money back.
But, most importantly, you have to allow the government to track your odometer or install a GPS tracking device in your car so they can record every mile you drive, and every place. Right now it’s an option, but wearing seatbelts used to be an option too. Now, seatbelts are a primary offense—you can be pulled over if police see you not wearing one. In other words, things can change.
So why the VMT over the gas tax? Well, it seems the government, which set up the gas tax to pay for road maintenance, isn’t collecting enough money to meet those needs. Governments need you to buy gas, and lots of it, to cover their costs. And since the federal government is mandating ever-higher CAFE standards, this means cars go farther on less gas, which means less money to the states. Add to that state and federal incentivizing of electric and hybrid cars and you being to see the problem—less revenue but the same amount of wear and tear on the roads.
Although the VMT would raise more money for states (you didn’t really expect them to be doing this if it didn’t, did you?), it would, quite humorously, hit the very people who have been incentivized to buy electric and hybrids in the first place.