Several key conservative public policy groups and corporate interests called on Congress last week to charge tolls for driving on every road in the country. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) was joined in a letter to lawmakers by 17 other groups, including the National Taxpayers Union, Reason Foundation and Taxpayers Protection Alliance. Vehicle tracking companies like Coretex and Vehcon also signed on.
Earlier this month, Democrats took over the US House of Representatives, dramatically shifting Washington’s policy priorities. The groups hope that the new committee leadership in the lower chamber will be open to eliminating roads that are free for all to use through financing provided by the gas tax, registration fees and other taxes.
“We are encouraged by the leadership of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman [Peter] DeFazio and Ranking Member [Sam] Graves, who have both supported examining a road usage charge system as the eventual replacement for a fuel tax regime that is projected to become increasingly inefficacious and regressive as vehicle fleet fuel economy improves and eventually electrifies,” the letter explained. “We strongly support their near-term efforts to create a nationwide mileage-based user fee pilot program.”
In the past decade, the average fuel economy of America’s passenger vehicle fleet has increased three percent, from 21.2 miles per gallon to 22. The best-selling vehicle in the country remains the Ford F-150 pickup truck with nearly double the sales of its nearest competitor, the Chevrolet Silverado. Electric cars are also a niche product. Out of the 17.6 million vehicles sold in the United States in 2017, 195,245 — or 1.1 percent — were powered by electricity. Nonetheless, the groups want to replace the gas tax with a per-mile tax on driving that would begin with a test program as early as 2020.