Are Americans Still Kings of the Road? If So, We’ll Need to Pay for Them

Transportation funding is a topic that has been more or less buried in the news as of late. Between government shutdowns, ACA roll-out challenges, foreign riots and the like, the American public isn’t really discussing this issue — though it’s an important one. This article from the Los Angeles Times outlines the concept of taxing car mileage, and the inherent benefits and challenges of such a system. Below, Cam Carter, our VP of small business and economic development, writes more on the subject.

Carter elaborates:

“There are three scenarios that policy-makers must consider:

  1. Do nothing and have both federal and state highway funds remain insufficient to maintain today’s roads & highways, let alone expand our transportation system to accommodate future economic needs and job creation.
  2. Raise both federal and state fuel taxes to make up for decades of not indexing them to inflation and then index them for future years. This is politically difficult and would likely result in some form of consumer/voter “sticker shock.”
  3. Explore a vehicle miles travelled tax (VMT) as a potential new way to fund critical infrastructure while addressing and managing privacy concerns.

With regard to privacy concerns and VMT, anyone with a cell phone is already carrying tracking technology in his/her back pocket today. Millions voluntarily provide location data, knowingly or unknowingly, to government and commercial interests today. Privacy and “Big Brother” concerns can be managed with technology and transparent public policy.  

In Indiana, the VMT legislation the Indiana Chamber supported and will continue to seek sets up a voluntary program to study the issue. It would examine replacing current fuel taxes with a VMT fee, not be tacked onto existing taxes.  

We must at least study alternatives to today’s broken system. Key question: Who pays for the roads when we are all driving all-electric vehicles? Clearly, technology has outpaced public policy in this arena;  we need to catch-up.”