Once the VMT system is set up, it would need to generate $34 billion each year just to replace current gas tax revenues. If things went extremely well and the feds generated $78 billion, they'd be able to maintain the roadway status quo. To truly improve the quality of our highways and byways, the government would have to raise significantly more moolah.
Naturally, this would mean added costs for drivers. On average, motorists in the U.S. now pay $96 in federal gas taxes. To reach the $34 billion mark, drivers would need to pay slightly more: $108 per year. (Though the GAO doesn't explain the discrepancy, it may involve offsetting the cost of VMT implementation.) To generate $78 billion per year, each driver would need to fork over about $248.
There's no question that America's roadways are in need of repair. Pew Research recently revealed that over a third of U.S. roads are in "substandard" condition. Our bridges aren't faring much better: roughly 25% of them are quietly crumbling. This may explain why preliminary reports indicate that U.S. traffic fatalities increased in 2012, after many years of declines.
There's some truth to the CEI's claim that relying on sales taxes for roadway funding is a bad idea. Sales taxes fluctuate wildly and don't necessarily reflect roadway usage. (And theoretically, you'd like the two to mirror one another.) Moreover, sales taxes typically place a heavier burden on lower-income Americans, some of whom may not drive at all.
On the other hand, taxing gasoline may be a losing game, too. With fuel economy set to reach 54.5 mpg within 12 years, gas usage will slowly fall. And as gas usage falls, so will gas tax revenue.
In theory, VMT seems like the fairest way to generate revenue for America's infrastructure, but can it be done while keeping costs in check and keeping drivers' data private? The GAO suggests instituting a pilot program so that Congress and federal agencies like the Department of Transportation have more data to make an informed decision.
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