State considering 'road usage charge' to tax drivers by the mile

OLYMPIA -- How much is a mile worth to you?

The Washington State Transportation Commission is floating a new plan to chuck the gas tax and charge drivers by the mile. Commissioners are looking at several options including odometer readings all the way to smart phone apps that track how many miles you’ve traveled.

On Tuesday, the commission voted to recommend a road usage charge demonstration to occur over the next 3-4 years in up to five regions across the state. This recommendation needs to be approved by the Legislature during the 2015 session.

Some drivers think the state should leave the gas tax as is and come up with the projected shortfall somewhere else. But for those still stuck with an older, less efficient internal combustion engine, saving money on gas is hard to come by.

“We spend a lot of money on gas all the time and we’re always looking for the cheapest place to buy gas,” said David Crittenden.

Cece Liarenhart said she drives thousands of miles a month to get to work.

“The drive to the distribution center in Puyallup, so that’s an extra 20 miles round trip,” she said.

Even though prices are pretty low at one Tacoma station for now, Liarenhart opposes replacing the gas tax with a per mile tax.

“Try to find another way to not penalize people who have to drive for a living,” she said. “Or a lot of people are going to be losing their jobs.”

Electric cars are a double-edged sword. While they cut down on air pollution, drivers also don’t pay any gas tax. Commissioners said the trend means that sustainable revenue has to come from somewhere else. A per mile tax could range from 1 to 2 cents per mile, but some drivers in Tacoma think the state gets enough tax money as it is.

“Soon they’ll start charging us for walking down the street,” laughed Ferrero.

Before the plan goes into full swing drivers would test it out first, as early as 2016.

Again, it will be up to lawmakers to make the final decision.