It’s unlikely that we’ll see more electric vehicles on the road than gas-powered cars anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean it won’t eventually happen. And since road construction and maintenance is currently funded largely by state and federal gas taxes, that presents a problem for governments. More people driving EVs means fewer people buying gas and less revenue from the gas tax. That’s why the state of Georgia may simply scrap it in favor of a mileage fee.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that state lawmakers are considering implementing a “mileage-based user fee” to replace its 29-cent gas tax. Drivers would still have to pay the 18-cent federal gas tax, though. The Joint Study Committee on the Electrification of Transportation is expected to make some initial recommendations next month, but an official decision likely won’t be made anytime soon.
Next year, the Georgia Department of Transportation does, however, plan to recruit some residents to join a pilot program to help automakers collect data. That’s partly because, even if the state decided to go forward with a tax on vehicle miles driven, it still has to figure out who would collect mileage data, how it would be collected, and how the tax would be paid.
There’s also the question of whether to charge drivers of heavier vehicles more per mile than those driving lighter cars. After all, the heavier a vehicle is, the more damage it does to the roads. But just because it’s the correct thing to do from a financial perspective doesn’t mean it would be politically viable.
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As Kary Witt, a vice president at an engineering company called HNTB, recently told the committee, under the current system, few drivers have any idea how much the gas tax actually costs them every year. Changing to a system that requires drivers to pay a per-mile fee will likely be met with resistance from people who had previously never been forced to think about the actual cost of the gas tax they’ve been paying for years.
That’s why Witt suggested the state invest in an education program to warm voters up to the idea. “The main message of the education program is, there are no free roads. This is just a different way of paying,” Witt said.
While creating such a program sounds like a good idea, making sure it’s effective would probably be a challenge all on its own. It’s hard to combat emotional reactions with logic, but does the state really want to run official ads telling citizens those dirty hippies driving their hybrids and EVs aren’t paying their fair share of the gas tax, so it’s now time to stick it to them with a different tax that requires the state to track how many miles they drive every year?
Like with most big problems that need to be solved, it’s going to be tricky to get drivers used to the idea of paying a set amount based on how much they drive, but hopefully Georgia can figure it out.