State, federal government considering 'pay per mile' tax plans

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- There could soon be a tax on the miles you drive. Lawmakers in DC and Olympia are considering it.

The idea is getting traction because there's just not enough money coming in from the gas tax. Electric and hybrid cars are better for the environment, but if fewer drivers are filling up, that's less money, and elected leaders say we need to make changes.

Right now, Washington state has the second highest gas tax in the country at 49 cents per gallon. Only Pennsylvania is higher.

On top of that, the feds tax another 18 cents per gallon. The money pays for highways, roads, bridges and ferries.

Many states, including Washington, have been testing programs paid for by federal grants that track drivers and their road usage. Here in Washington, 2,000 drivers signed up to take part in a 12-month pilot program.

They were given plug-in devices that go under their dashboard and track their miles.

President Trump and Democrats in Congress want to spend $2 trillion to improve the country's roads and bridges. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Seattle says the gas tax is not sustainable. She's one of those pushing a federal fee to use the roads.

Washington state has been studying the idea for the past seven years. Q13 News spoke to the executive director of the state transportation commission to find out where this is all heading.

"We think a lot of work would need to be done on the national level," said Reema Griffith with the state transportation commission. "But in the meantime we're demonstrating it's very feasible at the state level. It's just a question of public acceptance."

Most seem to think states will do this first and work out the kinks; then the federal government will follow.

The state of Oregon is leading the way. It already has a program involving 5,000 drivers. They're charged 1.7 cents per mile and they get a bill that gives them a tax credit for paying their gas tax of 34 cents a gallon.

It sounds like the "pay per mile" would replace the gas tax, so you would not pay both. The state transportation commission is now crunching data from its pilot program. They plan to come up with some recommendations for lawmakers this summer.

We could see action on this in Olympia as early as next year.