Congressional commission: U.S. should shift from gas tax to a mileage-based usage fee by 2020

The National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission — a bi-partisan commission created by Congress — is urging lawmakers to change the way it funds infrastructure after two years of study and deliberation.

In its final report, “Paying Out Way: A New Framework for Transportation Finance,” released on Feb. 26, the commission recommends that the federal government move away from relying on motor fuel taxes and more toward direct fees, such as a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax. (For an executive summary of “Paying Out Way: A New Framework for Transportation Finance, click here.”)

“Charging vehicle drivers a mileage fee embodies the ‘user pays’ principle and more accurately aligns the costs and benefits of the surface transportation system to those who are using it,” the commission notes in a written statement about the release of the new report. “More transparent charges for using infrastructure may also spur drivers to use the system more efficiently, reducing the overall investment need.”

However, despite U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s support of a VMT, President Barack Obama has rejected the idea.

So has FedEx Corp. Chief Executive Officer Fred Smith. He said it would be unfair to people in regions of the country where people have to drive more, according to a Feb. 27 report from Bloomberg.

“It would be ill-advised because I think it unfairly penalizes parts of the country — Montana, Wyoming, and places like that — for people that have long commutes,” Smith said Feb. 23 in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, according to the Bloomberg report. “And it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem, which is to reduce petroleum [usage].”

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