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Obama Rejects Idea of Vehicle Miles-Traveled Tax

February 26, 2009

President Obama on Feb. 20 rejected the suggestion to tax motorists based on how many miles they drive instead of how much gasoline they buy.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had said gasoline taxes that paid for the federal share of highway and bridge construction can no longer be counted on to raise enough money to keep the nation's transportation system moving. But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration.

A LaHood spokeswoman said Feb 20 that LaHood was speaking of the idea only in general terms, not as something being implemented as administration policy.

Most transportation experts see a vehicle miles-traveled tax as a long-term solution, and the idea is gaining ground in several states. The governor of Idaho has spoken about such a program. A North Carolina panel has suggested the state start charging motorists a quarter-cent for every mile as a substitute for the gas tax. Rhode Island's governor, however, has expressed opposition to a panel's recommendation in December that the state charge motorists a half-cent for every mile driven in addition to the gas tax.

Drivers have complained about a tentative plan in Massachusetts to use GPS chips in vehicles to charge motorists by the mile, saying it's an Orwellian intrusion by government into the lives of citizens. Other motorists say it eliminates an incentive to drive more fuel-efficient cars since gas guzzlers will be taxed at the same rate as fuel sippers.

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