Monday, November 26, 2018

Representative Mirra: Proposed Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax Invasive and Unnecessary

The following column by Representative Leonard Mirra (R-West Newbury) appeared in the November 25 edition of the Boston Globe in response to the question "Should Massachusetts institute a tax on vehicle miles traveled?":

Before even discussing an invasive and unnecessary vehicle miles-traveled tax, it would be helpful to remember we already pay other taxes and fees to fund transportation infrastructure.

State and federal taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel were created specifically to fund roads and bridges. We also pay a local car excise tax and a 12 percent federal excise tax on the first retail sale of commercial vehicles, all intended for roads. That excise tax increases the price we pay for products, almost all of which are delivered by truck.

Larger trucks are charged various taxes and fees including “apportioned” plate fees, and fees for carrying loads above maximum levels. These too are passed on to the costs we pay for the products we buy.

On top of all this we pay tolls, state and federal income taxes, and local real estate taxes, all of which contribute to funding maintenance and repairs of roads and bridges. With all of these revenue sources already in place, having government tracking our travel is unnecessary and, I believe, an invasion of privacy those in power could conceivably use for unethical purposes.

Funding road repairs with fuel taxes is far more efficient and economical than a vehicle miles-traveled tax. No additional programs or bureaucracies are needed; we pay at the pump and gas stations pay the taxes. This also provides an incentive to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles and eliminate unnecessary trips, encouraging conservation.

More to the point, just about all wear and tear on roads is caused by heavy trucks, not cars, so it’s simply more fair and appropriate to have their use pay for the repairs. The heavier they are, and the more miles they drive, the more fuel they will burn and pay taxes on.

Massachusetts spends four times the national average on its roadways but our roads are rated among the nation’s worst, according to 2012 rankings by Reason Foundation. The best course of action is to find the waste and inefficiencies in our current system and use the savings for more repairs before even considering a new tax.