Republican state representative Rick Geist of Altoona who is also chairman of the House Transportation Committee has an idea.
Since we’re starting to see more and more people buy increasingly fuel efficient vehicles, he’s worried that the tax realized by the state from the sale of gasoline is going to dwindle.
So he’s thinking about taxing you by the mile.
Mr. Geist says he knows the tax at the pump is the fairest way to go, that according to a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. But if we start seeing more Chevrolet Volt’s (I haven’t seen any), Nissan Leaf's (Leaves?) and other hybrid or fuel efficient vehicles, those drivers won’t have to use as much gas as they did when they were driving the cars they
preferred used to drive.
So he plans to include funding in the transportation budget for a study to figure out whether taxing us by the miles we drive would plug the gap.
And sure, collecting the mileage tax would be more costly and complicated than collecting the fuel tax. And yes installing a meter on every car (something wrong with the odometer?) would also be expensive and time-consuming. And no one has explained, as far as I know, how buying a hybrid which can come with a sizable government subsidy jibes with then having to also pay to drive it, usual costs notwithstanding. But sometimes in Harrisburg ideas of any sort are so few and far between that any idea that comes along gets serious consideration.
If everything pointed in the right direction, the mileage tax would replace the state’s portion of the tax on a gallon of gas. But even with the elimination of the gas tax I still don’t think the idea will be too popular.
For starters you’ll have tourism bureaus and retail associations wailing about people’s reluctance to pile up their tax liability by the simple act of getting to the amusement park or the mall.
Then there’s the issue of driving out of state. Can the commonwealth tax those miles? How will they determine which miles were driven in PA and which were not?
And what about interstate truck traffic that comes in one end of PA and out the other a few hours later? How do you collect their mileage tax?
Then there will be the inevitable issue of exemptions. Who will get them? Gas drillers? State vehicles? The state taxing itself is just dumb but that doesn’t mean state vehicles don’t chew up pavement just like your car and mine.
What about commuting? Would the state want to make you pay to drive back and forth to work?
The whole idea reminds me of the tax on cigarettes. Some of that money goes to promote anti-smoking efforts. So the more people who smoke, the more money is generated to talk them into quitting. Sounds like both ends working against the middle.
Maybe we ought to ask our elected officials in Harrisburg to reconsider another change. Maybe it’s time to ditch “The Keystone State” and replace it with “Pennsylvania: State of Confusion.”