Should Virginia Replace the Motor Vehicle Fuels Tax with a Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax?

The gasoline tax, long the backbone of Virginia's highway funding, could become less and less productive with more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. New and fair ways to spread the cost will have to be found, according to auto expert, George Hoffer. The author examines the pros and cons of a widely studied alternative to the current motor fuels user tax--a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) tax. Such a tax would probably have to be hased on a global positioning satellite (GPS) system, Hoffer writes. "To implement it, the General Assembly would mandate that each Virginia registered vehicle, given adequate lead-time, be equipped with a comonly configured GPS device as a condition for registration." But the concerns such a monitoring system raise about privacy mean that it has a high hurdle to overcome to ever be adopted, Hoffer concedes. It would add to the number of privacy intrusions that citizens already face. Drivers can already be monitored through "smart tags" that record toll road usage, cameras at some stoplights, cell phones and technology in almost all new vehicles that records driver behavior. "The monitoring of vehicle use for legitimate and fair tax purposes, as well as for criminal law enforcement purposes only, could be considered an incremental intrusion into privacy, given the loss of privacy that already has been given to telephone, satellite and Internet technology systems," Hoffer writes.
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Publication Date
Feb 9, 2011
Publication Series
The Virginia News Letter