• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Virginians can pay new per-mile fee to raise gas tax

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Oct 6, 2022

More than 7,000 Virginians have signed up to pay a fee for every mile driven under a program launched this summer, putting the state at the forefront of a nationwide effort using new technology to support taxes on gasoline who pay for the roads.

The Virginia program, known as Mileage Choice, is for drivers of electric vehicles and fuel-efficient cars who pay less gas taxes while driving on the same roads as other drivers. Starting in 2020, Virginia levies a flat charge on these types of vehicles based on the difference between what they would have paid in gas taxes if they drove an average number of miles.

In July, the state launched an alternative program to allow drivers to pay fees at a per-mile rate — a cost savings for those who drive less than the average amount, which officials peg at 11,600 miles per year. For battery-powered car drivers, the charge is one penny per mile.

As the Biden administration aims to have half of new vehicle sales be electric by the end of the decade, the federal government and states across the country are studying these fees, seeing them as a way to ensure that drivers continue to pay for the roads they use. . The push comes years after state and federal officials began noticing that increased fuel efficiency was straining transportation budgets funded by gasoline taxes.

Oregon and Utah have the oldest per-mile programs in the country, while other states have pilot projects in place.

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle officials said they were pleased with the rapid growth, which has caught the attention of transportation officials across the country. Last year’s infrastructure law asks the Federal Department of Transport to test such a tax at the national level.

“He definitely exceeded our expectations,” said Jessica Cowardin, spokeswoman for the Virginia agency.

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Scott Cummings, assistant commissioner of finance for the Virginia DMV, said the need for a levy became apparent in 2019 when gasoline tax revenue declined even as miles driven increased in the city. ‘State. This tax is a major component of the state transport budget, used to build and maintain roads.

In response, the Virginia General Assembly moved to impose new levies on electric vehicles and gasoline-powered vehicles with fuel efficiency greater than 25 miles per gallon, levying a flat fees paid on registration. Last year, before the launch of the per mile option, 1.9 million vehicles were subject to the flat fee.

Fees are calculated on a sliding scale. Lawmakers devised a formula that calculates what drivers of a vehicle with 25 mpg or more would pay in gas taxes versus one who gets 23.7 mpg, then sets the fee at 85% of the difference. Despite the complexities, it bridges the gas tax revenue gap while offering a little more benefit to the most fuel-efficient vehicles.

The driver of a new Nissan Altima who gets 30 mpg would pay a flat ‘highway use’ fee of $24.46, plus an average of $108.27 in state gas taxes for a total of $132.73. The owner of a new Hyundai Ioniq hybrid who gets 55 miles per gallon would pay a flat fee of $66.29 plus $59.05 in gas taxes for a total of $125.35. The driver of an electric Tesla Model 3 would only pay the $116.49 package.

Fees per mile are calculated by dividing the annual fee by 11,600, while drivers who opt into the mileage tracking program will pay no more than the flat fee. Virginia recently received its first per-mile income program, pocket $2,100 for kilometers traveled in August.

State programs are in their infancy, but registering some 2,000 drivers a month, Virginia’s quickly became the largest in the country, just as Utah, which has about 4,000 registered drivers, surpassed the Oregon (830 drivers).

“Virginia may be the biggest, but we’ll always be the oldest,” said Michelle Godfrey, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Donald Camp, 73, a retired State Department employee, was among the first in Virginia to enroll. He got a letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles saying his eight-year-old Nissan Leaf was eligible, then decided to give it a shot. Camp, who lives in Falls Church, said setting up the program was simple after the tracking device arrived in the mail.

The flat rate for a vehicle like Camp’s is $116 per year. He said he didn’t drive much, thinking it will pay about $20 total per mile.

“I’m going to save a lot,” Camp said.

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The growing interest in mileage charges represents a change in the policy of charges imposed on electric vehicles. Nearly a decade ago, Virginia State Senator Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) helped lead a revolt by Toyota Prius owners who opposed a $100 price tag. fee that then-Governor Robert F. McDonnell’s (R) administration was trying to impose on hybrids.

“A lot of people felt like they were being punished for being virtuous,” Surovell said.

But now, he says, “Everyone recognizes that if you buy an electric car that doesn’t use gas, it will have a big impact on investment funds and road maintenance.”

The future of mileage charges in Virginia is uncertain. The legislation creating the program was passed under former Gov. Ralph Northam (D). Macaulay Porter, spokesman for Governor Glenn Youngkin (right), called the program a “pilot”.

“The Governor will work with the General Assembly to assess the success of the program as we ensure our transportation infrastructure is properly maintained for the future,” Porter said in an email.

Like many states, the federal government has relied on a gas tax to help fund investments in roads and transportation, but Congress hasn’t raised the 18.4-cent tax since 1993. Its purchasing power has been considerably eroded by inflation and gains in energy efficiency. during this period.

Transit agencies that offer the per-mile option via tracking devices also face questions about user privacy. Virginia offers two options, one of which tracks driver location. Virginia’s program does not distinguish between miles flown in and out of state, but as states begin to think about how to allocate miles and share costs between them , officials involved in designing the programs say location data will be vital.

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Camp said he was surprised when the program’s app showed a dashboard rating his driving habits for braking, accelerating, cornering and speed. He said he didn’t remember choosing to collect detailed data and was surprised to see the results.

“I have no idea how this information is used,” he said.

Cummings said the only data the state receives is the number of miles a participant ran and the amount of fees they paid. He said Emovis, a company that runs the system, is bound by strict limits on how it uses the data, adding that it cannot be shared with third parties.

The federal government has not openly taken steps to implement the pilot project under the Infrastructure Act, which directs the Departments of Transportation and Treasury to design a plan while budgeting $50 million to finance the work. Federal Highway Administration officials say the agency is preparing to identify members of an advisory committee who will help design the test.