December 5, 2008

A Mileage Tax in Rhode Island?

Marc Comtois


A new mileage fee. The $150-million plan would not include it, but the $300-million plan would impose a half-cent-per-mile fee, raising an estimated $50 million per year. But officials said yesterday that they expect to eliminate the transfer of some sales tax revenue to the transportation system, proposed elsewhere in the report. Raising the mileage fee to 1 cent per mile would make up the difference.

At a half-cent per mile, driving 10,000 miles per year would cost $50 per vehicle. One cent would cost $100.

Also referred to as a VMT fee (for vehicle miles traveled), the mileage fee would be based on odometer readings reported by vehicle owners when they renew their registrations. The mileage could be verified during mandatory auto inspections, the study says. Robert A. Shawver, the DOT’s assistant director, said that although one state, Oregon, is pilot-testing a similar fee, Rhode Island’s would be the first of its kind in the country.

How much revenue will this really generate considering that most Rhode Islanders think a trip from Providence to South County (or vice versa) requires an overnight bag?

Seriously though, what about the miles traveled outside of the state? Why does Rhode Island have a right to tax people for miles not put on roads within RI borders--just because the car is registered in Rhode Island? Plus they'll be getting you as you come and go (via the tolls also mentioned in the article). What if Massachusetts wants to tax their drivers? Are we going to have cross-border "VMT" pissing matches? GPS tracking devices are next.

I understand these are tough times and can see the point in toll booths on bridges, etc. (though I'm not sure how much money will be raised vs. cost, especially initially) to help defray transportation infrastructure expenses. And I assume (heh) that the new tax revenue will be specifically designated for transportation and not General Revenue. But this VMT thing isn't the sort of "innovation" the state needs.

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Don't know if you noticed yet, but this idea was so absurd, that it's on the Drudge Report (left side, half-way down).

Another proud Rhode Island moment!

Posted by: Will at December 5, 2008 12:13 PM

Was this some kind of a joke?
More of my commute to work takes place in Massachusetts than Rhode Island. I can entirely see Massachusetts retaliating - I don't need to be paying in two states.
I won't even get into the libertarian argument against the state knowing how many miles I drive.
If you go to Foxwoods, use Exit 3 or 4 and take 138 or 165 into Connecticut.

Posted by: rhody at December 5, 2008 2:30 PM

Every August I make a trek to Atlanta, GA. Under this hair-brained plan would I have to pay Rhodey for the THOUSANDS of miles I put on my car out of the state?

How about if I had a company car?

What about if I was an on-site repair technician using my car and billing back to my employer?

There are so many holes in the logic of this plan that if it even gets past the laugh test I'm outta here.

Posted by: Greg at December 5, 2008 2:54 PM

With all the future juice from wind and wave to flow thru Block Island, shouldn't the state build a super transmission line and charge a toll?

Posted by: justasking at December 5, 2008 4:22 PM

1) taxes out-of-state mileage of in-state registered vehicles
2) doesn't tax in-state mileage of out-of-state vehicles such as heavy trucks that do a disproportionate amount of damage to roads due to weight
3) gives fleet owners a reason to buy vehicles out-of-state and register out-of-state at a satellite office/broom closet.
4) ignores the fact we already have a vehicle mileage tax - its the GAS TAX - because mileage and consumption correlate with miles driven and vehicle weight
5) gives snow birds yet another reason to register their vehicles out-of-state and eventually throw in the towel and leave for good

thus proving the only people dumber than our elected officials - the ones who requested this steaming pile - are the people elect them.

Does all the gas tax go towards highways? Fix that first. If by some miracle, we do convert over to a fleet with 2x the mileage the current vehicle mix has, then you can make the case - justifiably - that you need to increase the gas tax to keep the roadwork funded.

Posted by: chuckR at December 5, 2008 4:23 PM

I work in community mental health. I live in EP but work in Middletown; I drive 195 twice a day. I've been trying to find something better for a while now but after all, this is RI. So I do what I have to do to pay rent, student loans, etc. My husband was out of work for 8 months not too long ago so it's kind of a miracle we're both employed in RI & yet neither of us are union members. But anyways...

A big part of my job is transporting clients to & from appointments for which I get a small reimbursement (not even the IRS rate). Many community mental health agencies & other social service-type agencies have similar policies. With the budget cuts to agencies like mine I wonder if they would stop reimbursing us for mileage? We've already been told they are no longer reimbursing us for crossing the Newport Bridge effective when the EZPass goes into effect & our clients (who are on Social Security) will have to pay the toll if we need to get them to South County for appointments because there are so few medical providers who take state insurance on the island.

Quite frankly, I don't make enough to pay for the kind of mileage my job requires me to drive! RI: the "bend over" state!

Posted by: Stephanie at December 5, 2008 8:23 PM

I just heard that my home state of Connecticut is upset about lost revenue from tax on alcoholic beverages. It seems people are buying less expensive brands of wine and beer which results in lower revenue collected by the state.

"We, the people" are obviously adjusting to this miserable economy by cutting back on expenses while government insists on maintaining and further escalating its spending without regard to real-world economics. If the governed have to make concessions to the economy so should government, I see no reason to accept that their expenses are somehow more pressing than ours.

Frankly, I think ANY new taxes should be vehemently opposed. The initial amount of the tax is meaningless and shouldn't even be consisdered because it is just a way for government to get the tax into law. Haven't we learned by now that once a proposed tax becomes law it then easily bloats to amounts that would have caused street riots if it started out at that level?

Ask yourself this..."why don't they simply raise the money by increasing the existing gasoline tax instead of creating a new one"? Maybe the answer is that people would balk at increasing a tax many feel is disproportionate to the benefits realized from it. By creating a new tax that starts out at a low rate governement can slip it in more easily than raising one that is already a sore point with the populace. Hasn't goverment been slipping it in a little too much already?

I know we are all busy trying to have some sort of life for ourselves and fighting "city hall" isn't any fun, but it's necessary and long overdue. We need to remind our elected officials who put them in their positions and we need to get over the idea that we "owe" government rthe unchallenged right to take more and more of our income for any purpose they choose. Government is supposed to be working for us folks, not the other way around.

Posted by: Ed Mang at January 7, 2009 9:30 AM

Why do you all live in a state that rapes you via taxes? When you finally get tired of it a place in the country where government is FOR the people and taxes of all sorts are low. ...hint: This place is not in the north, east or west. Stop being punished!

Posted by: Anthony at January 10, 2009 3:31 PM

Why do you all live in a state that rapes you via taxes? When you finally get tired of it a place in the country where government is FOR the people and taxes of all sorts are low. ...hint: This place is not in the north, east or west. Stop being punished!

Posted by: Anthony at January 10, 2009 3:31 PM

Moving won't help now that LaHood is looking at this on a federal level.

Though this was some of the silliness I'm glad I escaped when I moved to NH two months ago after living my whole life in RI. I miss it, but can't afford it, and am rapidly starting to not be able to afford it up here too!

Posted by: J at February 20, 2009 10:48 AM
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