Is A Mileage-Based User Fee A Likely Replacement For The State's Gasoline Tax?

Finding alternatives to the state's gasoline tax is the task at hand for a new bipartisan transportation revenue commission appointed by the governor; KDKA's Jon Delano reports.

Video Transcript

KEN RICE: Finding alternatives to the state's gasoline tax. That's the job the governor has given a bipartisan commission. Essentially, lawmakers need to make up for the money the gas tax is no longer bringing in.

KYM GABLE: But as Money Editor Jon Delano reports, replacing the gas task is not-- that gas tax is not going to be easy.

JON DELANO: Nobody likes the state's $0.59 a gallon gasoline tax, one of the highest in the nation. And with more electric and fuel efficient cars, it's not bringing in the revenue to repair our roads. That's why we get proposals to toll bridges. And nobody likes that either. Is there an alternative?

SCOTT MATTHEWS: It's actually pretty simple to think about. Which is instead of paying by the gallon, you pay by the mile you drive.

JON DELANO: It's called a mileage-based user fee. Get rid of the gasoline tax altogether and replace it with a fee based on how many miles you drive. The more you drive, the more you pay.

A Carnegie Mellon University study of the speed found, on average, most Pennsylvanians drive around 10,000 miles a year, and pay $200 in gasoline taxes.

SCOTT MATTHEWS: Charging $0.2 a mile. You drive 10,000 miles, that's $200. And for those cars that are the average ones that I mentioned earlier, people in those situations would see no net difference in what they were paying.

JON DELANO: "An alternative to the gas tax is needed," says US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Sooner or later, we've got to change from the old way of funding our roads and bridges to something different, something new.

JON DELANO: Are you open to the mileage tax?

PETE BUTTIGIEG: And so there have been ideas for what you might call a usage or mileage fee. It could go off your odometer, for example. Same idea, it's just not based on gasoline.

Now, there are some issues with how you get that data. And can you do it in a way that's respectful of privacy?

JON DELANO: Some states like Oregon and Utah have already moved to a mileage tax. And eight other states are experimenting with it. Could Pennsylvania be next?

ALEXIS CAMPBELL: We're really interested in it. It's difficult to say how practical it is in the short term. We don't think that it's really a viable short term option. There are a lot of unanswered questions. And really, like the technology itself isn't quite there yet.

JON DELANO: PennDOT says it needs $8 billion more to repair all our roads and bridges. So whatever this commission proposes, it's likely to hike costs for someone, somewhere. Jon Delano, KDKA News.