Ohio Looks to Oregon’s Mileage Tax Plan to Fund Transportation

Suggestions that the state’s 28-cent gas takes should jump another 18 cents started the search for other alternatives. Some think Oregon’s tax plan on mileage in non-gasoline vehicles looks promising.

by The Columbus Dispatch / February 21, 2019
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(TNS) — Ohio lawmakers may one day have other transportation revenue options besides a gas tax, but that day doesn't appear to be in the near future.

Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine will propose raising the state's 28-cent gas tax by 18 cents, and lawmakers have been asking whether alternatives exist.

Ohio Trucking Association president Tom Balzer, who is advocating for a gas-tax increase, told lawmakers Wednesday that options do exist, but that they are a long way from being reliable.

"The issue of tolling, the issue of vehicle miles traveled, some of those funding sources out there, because they are not well-vetted, they are difficult to implement," Belzer said. "The administrative fees on them are so high, we don't see them as viable short-term options. We need an influx of cash now."

Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, noted that tolling is problematic because the federal government does not allow states to place a toll on an existing interstate.

As more hybrid and electric vehicles are sold, the idea of taxing miles driven has been suggested as a future revenue source.

"Electric cars are using the roads just as much as those using gas and diesel," said Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton.

Some have pointed to Oregon, which started a volunteer test program four years ago that tracks how many miles a person drives via a device that plugs into a vehicle's computer system. Drivers are charged 1.7 cents per mile, which is credited against the state's 34-cent-per-gallon gas tax.

"We have more than enough enrollees to have fully tested the system and we have proven we can generate revenue, proven that the technology works, and proven that the private-sector partnership works," said Michelle Godfrey, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

However, Oregon may not be the inspirational story Ohio is looking for, especially if the goal is revenue in the short term. Oregon, which instituted the nation's first gas tax in 1919, has been studying alternative revenue options since 2001 and still isn't out of the test stage.

Instead of fully implementing the mileage tax last year, Oregon lawmakers instead raised the gas tax by 4 cents.

"We've got to get people on board with the concept," Godfrey said.

©2019 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.