Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There seems to be no end to the ideas state government comes up with to take your hard-earned money. Two years ago, the Legislature adopted an 11.9 cent gas tax hike and numerous vehicle fee increases to pay for a 16-year, $16 billion statewide transportation improvement package. Washington state's current gas tax is 49.4 cents per gallon. It is the second highest gas tax in the country behind Pennsylvania. Now, transportation officials are saying that's not enough money. They want more!
In an article published in numerous newspapers, Washington State Transportation Commission Executive Director Reema Griffith argues that as the average miles per gallon of new fuel-efficient vehicles increases over the next 20 years, the state will collect less revenue from the gas tax and it won't be able to keep up with our transportation needs.
How should we pay for transportation in the future? Besides tolling, which has become “popular” on many of the newer megaprojects (viaduct replacement, 520 bridge, 405 HOT lanes), Griffith suggests a “road usage charge,” in which you would pay by the mile.
Paying for every mile you drive
Last year, the Legislature directed the state Transportation Commission to come up with a plan to test a pay-by-mile system. In August, the Transportation Commission received a $3.8 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration to put those plans in motion.
A website has been launched seeking volunteers to participate in the state's pilot program to test the road usage charge concept. The Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Project is hoping at least 2,000 people will sign up for the pilot program by this fall.
People who take part in the pilot will test one of four payment systems, ranging from a year-long permit that allows them to drive unlimited miles to a smartphone app that automatically tracks all the miles they travel. Other options include using odometer readings to gauge miles traveled or an automated meter inside the vehicle, neither of which would require GPS location data.
During the test period, drivers wouldn't be charged for miles they travel. Instead, it will help state officials discover any fatal flaws in the system.
It's no secret that many of my House Republican colleagues and I are very concerned about implementing a permanent “vehicle miles traveled” road charge.
- It seems it may be inherently unfair to the rural areas of our state. Some people must drive 50 – 75 miles to see a doctor. In the 39th District, we have many people who commute from their homes in Snohomish County to work in Everett or the Seattle Metro area. They would pay more than those people who live only a few miles from their workplace.
- There are major concerns over privacy. While transportation officials assure the public today the equipment that would be installed in vehicles to track mileage does not contain GPS tracking, what is the guarantee that would not change once the program is fully implemented? Does the government really need to know when I go to the grocery store or which store I shop?
During debate on the transportation budget, my House Republican colleagues offered an amendment that would have eliminated use of federal funding for the pilot program. The amendment was rejected. Which means the pilot program will continue starting this fall.
Get involved in the pilot program!
The road usage pilot program will include 2,000 drivers from across the state. Their input could determine if this program becomes permanent. If we get 2,000 drivers involved in the pilot program who are primarily from Seattle, environmentalists, bureaucrats and other like-minded people who love the idea of charging per mile, this study will be skewed. We need drivers from across the state of Washington and from all walks of life — Jane and Joe Q Citizen — to sign up. We need pizza drivers, landscapers, traveling salespeople and more to sign up and provide their true input. Remember, no one will be charged for their mileage while in the pilot program.
Go here to sign up: https://waroadusagecharge.org/#rc-sign-up
I want your input. Please take my survey on this issue!
Please click here and take a moment to fill out my brief survey. I want to know how you feel about a possible “road usage charge,” in which you are charged by the miles that you drive. Please share this survey with your friends and family. I will leave the survey open until next Tuesday, May 9, at which time I will collect the results.
Also, please contact my office with any questions, comments or suggestions about this or other legislative issues. You will find my contact information below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!