Nevada Becomes Newest Battleground in Mileage Tax Debate

Nevada's state DOT is in the early stages of a years-long study aimed at mapping a possible transition from the gas tax to a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee, a shift urged last year by a congressionally chartered panel on infrastructure financing and encouraged by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

GPS_tax_mileage.jpgIn-vehicle GPS units, such as the one above, are often discussed as a method for tracking VMT. (Photo: JustGetThere)
But after the first of the state's two public hearings on the study, the very idea of evaluating an eventual VMT tax is proving to be polarizing and politically risky.

The Nevada chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has decried the study as a privacy risk, raising "serious questions about any VMT proposal that would set up what amounts to a perfect infrastructure for tracking citizens everywhere they go in their vehicles," while two regional transportation commissions have withdrawn funding from the effort.

The Nevada Motor Transport Association, a trade group representing trucking and bus companies, also has spoken out against the concept of VMT charges, while business and labor interests are countering with support for the study under the umbrella of the Nevada Highway Users Coalition (not connected to the American Highway Users Alliance).

Local road users, meanwhile, appear to be divided on the merits of a move from gas taxes to mileage-based charging. From the Reno Gazette-Journal:

Gasing up one recent afternoon at a Reno service station, [Luiz] Garcia said he would probably be open to a mileage-based fee system to raise needed road funding.

"It seems like that would be fair," said Garcia, 48. "If you use, you have to pay."

Scott Deupree, 62, said he would be open to considering the possibility but would want to be sure fees wouldn't be added to existing gas taxes for an overall tax increase "on the sly."Roads "have got to be taken care of" and if a mileage fee is the most efficient way to do so, it might be a reasonable step, said 25-year-old Brandon Rasmussen of Carson City.