The Obama administration’s initial efforts at transportation policy are off to a rocky start. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this morning came out in favor tracking and taxing drivers on the miles they drive instead of the amount of gas they consume. Almost immediately a spokesperson at the Transportation Department said such a system will not be part of the Obama administration’s policy, suggesting Secretary LaHood is still early on in his learning curve. Scotching this idea was right, however, because it was a bad idea to begin with.
The vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax would fund transportation projects and increase conservation by increasing the cost of driving. It is unnecessary, however, because the gas tax already accomplishes these tasks—and is much cheaper to administer. A VMT would be expensive to implement because every car would need to be fitted with a device that both records miles driven and transmits the information to a government database. This complicated system would cost millions and raise concerns of big brother watching our every movement.
Americans don’t like paying the gas tax, but they are sure to be even more unhappy having to deal with the administrative nightmare the VMT promises. Secretary LaHood would be better served coming up with a plan returning responsibility for transportation funding to the states where it rightly belongs.