Washington State Viewpoint: Change Ahead for Gas Tax

Sooner or later, the state and federal governments will need to adjust how they collect money to pay for new roads and for road maintenance. More efficient vehicles and an increase of hybrid and electric vehicles are slowly rendering pay-at-the-pump taxes obsolete.

And while the public is somewhat suspicious when lawmakers start talking about taxes, there is at least one selling point any eventual change: How would you like it if gas prices dropped 49.4 cents per gallon? How about 67.8 cents per gallon?

Washington drivers pay nearly 50 cents in state tax for each gallon of gas, the second-highest rate in the nation. Add in the federal tax of 18.4 cents, and we are paying more than two-thirds of a dollar in taxes for each gallon. With a change to the system becoming inevitable, Washington has undertaken a pilot project to assess alternatives.

The pilot program is winding down at the end of January after a 12-month experiment. Officials enlisted 2,000 drivers throughout the state to test pay-by-mile alternatives to the traditional pay-at-the-pump model, with some participants engaging in “no-tech” methods such as reporting odometer readings and others being equipped with mileage meters using GPS or smartphone apps.