Late Tuesday, the state’s Transportation Commission took a nonbinding vote recommending that the Legislature consider implementing a mileage tax to replace stagnating gas tax revenues. State Sen. Phil Fortunato, who is a member of the Senate Transportation Committee and on the mileage tax pilot work group, voiced sharp criticism of the move.
“This is just another example how out of touch people involved in transportation planning are with the voters,” said Fortunato. “Washingtonians voted to reduce car tabs and the commission’s response is to support yet another tax that won’t actually address the problem, and costs 35%, paid to a third party, to collect.”
Fortunato pointed to numerous presentations by the state Department of Transportation that notes usage of roads is not the problem when it comes to transportation funding. The real cost driver is inflation.
“If we do not have an inflation-linked funding source, then all of this is pointless,” said Fortunato.
He has introduced an innovative plan that, according to a nonpartisan analysis, shows more funding for roads with money already being sent to Olympia. By using the existing sales tax on motor vehicles, the state would see more than $54 billion in positive economic impacts, including thousands of jobs, more tax collections from sales tax and fewer hours in traffic for commuters. It also would provide a sustainable, fair and inflation-linked source of funding.
“The mileage tax is totally unfair to Eastern Washington because of the larger distances traveled in more rural parts of our state. Many people in Eastern Washington put hundreds of miles on their vehicles just getting to work, around a farm or going shopping,” Fortunato said. “And it’s not like this is going to solve the problem. Instead of talking about raising the gas tax, lawmakers will be back with their hands out raising the “mileage tax” for more revenue. It’ll never be enough.”
“Lawmakers need to solve the problem with the money we already send to Olympia.” added Fortunato. “Our state’s transportation problems require more than just another tax. Voters spoke clearly with their support of $30 car tabs; I doubt they’re going to be thrilled with charging them to drive on roads they already paid for.”