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Economics

Nevada Becomes Newest Battleground in Mileage Tax Debate

8:05 AM PDT on April 9, 2010

Nevada's state DOT is in the early stages of a years-long study aimed at mapping a possible
transition from the gas tax to a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee, a
shift urged
last year
by a congressionally chartered panel on infrastructure
financing and encouraged
by
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

GPS_tax_mileage.jpgIn-vehicle
GPS units, such as the one above, are often discussed as a method for
tracking VMT. (Photo: JustGetThere)

But
after the first of the state's two public hearings on the study, the
very idea of evaluating an eventual VMT tax is proving to be polarizing
and politically risky.

The Nevada chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has decried
the study as a privacy risk, raising "serious questions about any VMT
proposal that would set up what
amounts to a perfect infrastructure for tracking citizens everywhere
they go in their vehicles," while two regional transportation
commissions have
withdrawn
funding from the effort.

The Nevada Motor Transport
Association
, a trade group representing trucking and bus companies,
also has spoken out against the concept of VMT charges, while business
and labor interests are countering with support for the study under the
umbrella of the Nevada Highway Users
Coalition
(not connected to the American
Highway Users Alliance
).

Local road users, meanwhile, appear to be divided on the merits of a
move from gas taxes to mileage-based charging. From the Reno
Gazette-Journal
:

Gasing
up one recent afternoon at a Reno service station, [Luiz] Garcia said he
would
probably be open to a mileage-based fee system to raise needed road
funding.

"It seems like that would be fair," said
Garcia, 48. "If you use, you have to pay."

Scott
Deupree, 62, said he would be open to considering the possibility but
would want to be sure fees wouldn't be added to existing gas taxes for
an overall tax increase "on the sly."Roads
"have got to be taken care of" and if a mileage fee is the most
efficient way to do so, it might be a reasonable step, said 25-year-old
Brandon Rasmussen of Carson City.

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