SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (KMTR) – The way Oregonians pay road taxes could be changing as the state has launched a new pilot program to see if charging drivers “per-mile” is a better route to go.
Most drivers pay road fees through the state gas tax. That tax makes up 30 cents of each gallon sold in Oregon. All of the money goes to the state for distribution to highway, county and local road projects. According to Oregon’s constitution, the gas tax must be used on road projects.
But with new cars getting much higher miles-per-gallon and electric cars hitting the road, ODOT says the gas tax is “beginning to fail.”
Since 2001, ODOT has been working towards figuring out a possible alternative for a gas tax.
Now, the state is in the middle of another pilot program to measure “per-mile” road use as a way to get all of Oregon’s drivers paying their “fair share.”
ODOT reps spoke about the per-mile pilot program at Springfield City Club on Thursday, November 6th, 2012.
About 50 people are involved in the pilot program now, which end in February 2013. The program tracks driver mileage, then bills the driver 1.56 cents (one and a half cents) for each mile driven.
Over the next 20 years, ODOT estimates that new cars using less fuel will cause a drop in gas tax revenue by between 25 and 50%. Meanwhile, there will be more cars on the road, which means there’s an even more normal wear and tear on the roads.
"This would be fair. Everybody would have a minimum responsibility to pay for the road system and it would be based on use. So those that use the road system more would pay more and those that use it less would pay less, so it would be a much fairer system than the fuel tax,” says James Whitty, manager of ODOT’s Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding.
Depending on what the Oregon State Legislature decides, the per-mile road use fee could go into effect in 2015. The fee would only apply to new vehicles purchased after implementation that get 55 miles to the gallon or better and electric vehicles.
The program would also offer multiple options on how drivers would pay for the per-mile tax. Drivers could then report mileage directly to the state or a private company.
With reporting to the state, ODOT would only offer a mileage tracking device that records all miles and no location or GPS data. Because of the lack of location data, this option would still count tax-exempt mileage data off-road and out of state. Another ODOT offered option would let drivers pay a flat rate of 45 dollars per month and avoid per-mile taxes.
If a driver chose to report mileage to a private company, they could choose to use a GPS coordinate device that would track when their vehicle is out of state and when their vehicle is off road. Those miles would be tax-exempt. Drivers could also choose a smart-phone application with a similar measurement style.
Those in the program also wouldn’t pay gas taxes in the end. While they’d still be charged at the pump, the state would then credit gas tax paid to their per-mile account. That credit would be determined on how many miles were driven and the registered vehicle’s “miles per gallon” rating.
Bills for the program could be paid based on the drivers preference. Some ideas include quarterly or annually.
The program would only apply to Oregon drivers at the time of the registration of their car. ODOT says the state will still keep the gas tax for all other drivers. Washington and Nevada are also looking at per-mile road use fee programs.