State leaders examine mileage tax option - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/19/10

State leaders examine mileage tax option

By Ben Lawson  - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - State leaders say they have to examine new ways to pay for road improvements. One idea being looked at is to tax drivers on mileage instead of fuel.

The Texas Transportation Commission selected a committee to review a mileage tax system last month. Their report is due in October, but we wanted to find out if the idea has local support.

"I'm not necessarily impressed by the mileage tax," State Senator Robert Duncan said. He says taxing people on the number of miles driven could be unfair to folks in west Texas.

"For us out here in rural west Texas, where it's just a necessity to drive further, more miles, I think that type of system, unless there are adjustments or some sort of weighting that recognizes the issue, it would seem to be discriminatory," Duncan said.

Still, law makers say something has to be done. "Obviously the current system we're using now is probably insufficient given changes that are occurring," Duncan said.

A fuel tax is the main way Texas pays for road improvements right now. Revenue has declined though, due to more fuel efficient vehicles and the increasing use of hybrids, but construction costs continue to rise and the state's infrastructure keeps getting older.

"We were real excited about saving money, and now it's like well then we'll have to pay more," Lori Parham said. Parham drives a hybrid. She's saving money and helping the environment by not using as much gas, but under a mileage tax, she'd pay like everyone else.

"At first I was upset, because if it's by the gas, I'm saving money on it now, but then when you sort of think about it, that I use just as much road as everybody else does. So, it makes it even for everybody, but I don't think anybody likes to be taxed," Parham said.

Duncan suggests toll roads could be a solution. "In the congested areas, which is where the real expense is right now, toll roads work. While they're unpopular when you propose them, once they're completed, people are really, I think, satisfied with the ease in congestion and the option that they provide," Duncan said.

Though, Duncan says tolls would not work in west Texas because there simply isn't enough traffic to generate the amount of money necessary. "We're going to have to be committed to looking at other ideas and methods of finance for future transportation programs," Duncan said.

Duncan says that he is opposed any increase to the current fuel tax to help pay for roads, as some other law makers have suggested.

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