States are taking the question of highway funding into their own hands as the federal government dithers and one of the leading ideas is charging motorists for the miles they travel—vehicle miles traveled (VMT).
This is especially important with the increasing fuel economy numbers reducing the take on the gas tax, not to mention hybrids and electric vehicles that pay little to maintain the roads they use.
The legislature decided to create a third party to suggest a new tax, a committee to review options and come up with a plan for a new VMT tax. Passed in 2014, SB 1077 created the California Road Usage Charge Pilot Program. The program requires the chair of the California Transportation Commission, to pull together a 15-member Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to study alternatives to the gas tax, gather public comment and make recommendations to State Transportation Agency.
The agency is charged with implementing a pilot program by January 1, 2017 and reporting its findings on the pilot program to the committee, the commission and the “appropriate policy and fiscal committees” of the legislature by June 30, 2018—last day of the session—so it will be at least 2019 before any changes go into effect.
The story coming out of Sacramento is that the committee is looking hard at Oregon’s effort in this area. Oregon started developing a pilot program for VMT funding nearly six years ago and it’s about to rollout as a 5,000 vehicle test program this year. Since there are deadlines, they may be wondering “Why reinvent the wheel?”
What’s Up With Oregon?
The state has already run two small-scale pilot programs to get the kinks out of their systems and is now ready to roll-out a 5,000 volunteer program called OreGO, the acronym (it is a government program after all) for Oregon’s Road Usage Charge Program (no, it doesn’t match, but hey, its Oregon).
April 27th state officials announced that three private business partners are now technically certified to manage accounts and collect road user fees from those accounts for deposit into the State Highway Fund.
Participants in OReGO, which launches July 1, are volunteering for the program and will be charged a per mile fee, then either receive a credit or a bill for the difference in gas taxes paid at the pump.
Volunteers must sign up for the program at the website www.myOReGO.org
Here are the details:
Beginning July 1, OReGO volunteer drivers will pay a road usage charge for the amount of miles they drive, instead of the fuel tax.
- The OReGO road usage charge is set at 1.5 cents per mile.
- Drivers will get a credit on their bill to offset the fuel tax they pay at the pump.
- Drivers will have their choice of secure mileage reporting options offered by OReGO’s trusted private-sector partners, Azuga, Sanef and Verizon Telematics.
- Drivers’ personal information will be kept secure and private.
California is not alone at looking at Oregon’s effort. State officials say Washington, Idaho, Colorado and others are considering similar pay-by-the-mile road usage charge systems.
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