/J.B. Pritzker Wants to Tax You on the Miles You Drive
JB Pritzer

J.B. Pritzker Wants to Tax You on the Miles You Drive

Possible double taxation and concerns about privacy are among the biggest criticisms against implementing a vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, tax.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker brought the idea of tracking and taxing miles driven to the editorial board of the suburban Daily Herald last week as a way to pay for infrastructure projects in Illinois.

Such a pilot program that is voluntary and only available for 5,000 drivers is ongoing in Oregon. Beginning this year, the program charges 1.7 cents per mile.

Oregon-based Cascade Policy Institute President and CEO John Charles was part of a commission to bring about the program.

“Back in 2001, the Oregon legislature decided to see a future in which the motor fuel tax would eventually become minor or completely irrelevant due to the coming revolution of hybrid vehicles, and now all-electric vehicles and people with such vehicles pay little or zero motor fuel tax and become free riders and the system wouldn’t work,” Charles said.

If a state like Illinois were ever to fully implement such a system, taxpayers need to hold politicians’ feet to the fire to get rid of other taxes, Charles said.

“[Legislators] can’t get themselves to do that,” Charles said. “They just want to double and triple tax people. OK, well that’s where it goes away then. You’re not going to get public support for double taxation.”

If such a program involves a transponder reporting to government where drivers travel, Charles said there will be privacy concerns.

“As electric cars penetrate the market at an increasing rate, I think every state is going to have to grapple with this issue, which is, ‘What’s the future like if motorists aren’t buying motor fuel, how are you going to pay for roads infrastructure?’ ” Charles said.

Taxpayers will have to be persistent that if a user fee is implemented in one area, a tax must be repealed from another, he insisted.

“People are not going to stand for it unless you’re going to give them some tax relief from some other second or third tax,” Charles said. “Politicians have a very, very hard time getting that message.”

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