September 21, 2014

Charging drivers per mile

There’s an idea to have motorists pay for each mile driven in order generate revenue for state transportation projects. However, Craig Thompson, Executive Director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin, says it’s just that — an idea. The logistics are still being discussed, including whether to install GPS monitors or have drivers self report odometer readings, if it’s even recommended at all.

“I don’t think we know for sure, if we were gonna make a recommendation on that, how it would look. … It likely would not contain anything like the GPS or any sort of technological device that would track where people are driving.”

Lawmakers created the Transportation Finance and Policy Commission after realizing that the current gas tax and vehicle fees simply aren’t enough to meet the state’s future transportation needs.

Roads in Wisconsin are heavily subsidized by taxpayers. A report from 1000 Friends of Wisconsin shows that from 2004 to 2008, roads in the state cost an average of $4.24 billion annually. Of this, $1.74 billion came from revenue sources unrelated to road use — primarily property and sales taxes — while another $600 million was borrowed.

Thompson, who is a member of the advisory panel, says it’s pretty clear among all 50 states that the current user fee — gas tax — is not enough. He says doing nothing is not an option.

“We’re gonna have to determine what would be the most reasonable way to address user fees so that we can have a transportation system that our businesses need and that the public needs.”

The mileage-based fee would be the first in the nation, although some states have experimented with pilot projects. There’s also the issue of out-of-state drivers.

The commission is expected to make its final recommendations by the end of the year. Anything coming out of the panel would need to be approved by the state legislature and the governor.

There have been 11 meetings of the full commission so far, with the most recent one on September 20, along with some subcommittee meetings, and a few public hearings. The next full commission meeting is scheduled for October 18th and another is set for December 5th.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:38