New Oregon gas tax would charge by the mile

Lawmakers are working to find a new way to collect revenue

Canyon Road at Lombard in Beaverton, March 27, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Canyon Road at Lombard in Beaverton, March 27, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — With cars becoming more fuel efficient, state lawmakers said Oregon’s gas tax simply does not collect the revenue it used to. But a new initiative underway would change the way people are taxed, providing more funds for state roads and bridges.

“When fuel is not being sold, we’re not collecting revenue for maintaining those roads,” Michelle Godfrey with the Oregon Department of Transportation said. “So we have to have an alternative.”

Over the last 20 years, Godfrey said a variety of factors have made it harder to fund road construction and maintenance projects in the state. With higher costs for materials like concrete and rebar, combined with less state gas tax revenue and federal highway money, officials said it’s been especially hard to maintain Oregon’s roads.

So to fix the issue, some state lawmakers want to enact a new way to collect revenue, essentially taxing drivers based on how much they use local roads.

“The best proxy for that now is by the mile,” Godfrey said. “It used to be amount of gas consumed — that was appropriate when all cars pretty much got the same gas mileage — that’s no longer the case, so paying by the mile is actually more fair.”

With more electric cars on the road, and subsequently less people filling up their gas tanks, the state said charging drivers by the mile will help sustain road building and maintenance efforts.

“We need to find a way to pay for the roads, whether its hybrid cars or plug-in electric vehicles, they’re so much more efficient,” James Day, who drives a hybrid, told KOIN 6 News. “They’re using less gas and that’s cutting into revenue, and that’s a problem.”

Most hybrid and electric car owners said the money they save on gas would more than make up for a new mileage charge.

ODOT will begin accepting volunteers to track their mileage under the new gas tax initiative beginning July 1. If you would like more information, or to sign up, you can visit their website.

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