Sunday, January 13, 2013

Washington State could go back to charging more for license tabs

They say the gas tax isn't enough to cover cost of roads in Washington State because more fuel efficient cars are buying less gallons of gas. Also people may be driving less. Other sources of revenue are being considered including the possibility of tracking cars with GPS and charging an additional fee on a per mile basis. Some folks think this GPS solution is unworkable and also some folks feel it would be a violation of privacy for the government to track private cars with GPS.

So, maybe we could go back to higher license fees as an alternative source of revenue; rather than GPS tracking?

The license tab was a broader tax base than just the gas tax alone, but it was thrown out by voters, in 1999, as part of Tim Eyman's famous Initiative 695. Before 695, more revenue was available from license tabs and the tax was graduated. Expensive cars paid more while less expensive cars paid less. 695 gave a break on the cost of license tabs, especially the higher cost for more expensive cars as it lowered the rates and made the rates more like a flat tax. Regressive.

695 was tossed out by courts as unconstitutional after that 1999 election, but governments have, to some extent, preserved it's intent. Maybe the license tab fees could be revisited?

More recently, the state is holding some meetings discussing alternative revenue sources in light of the falling gas tax revenue.

Some folks say that the license fee was siphoned away from roads before I-695. In truth, a lot of it went to non car transportation. Much of the funding for public transit came from the license tabs and people tend to forget that public transit can help automobile drivers by reducing overall traffic.

Why does it cost so much to build roads in Washington State? Part of that may be the high cost of land needed to build new road capacity. Also the high cost of living, especially in central Puget Sound region, tends to bring up labor costs and so forth.

We got a classy state here, but we can't have it all. Million dollar homes and inexpensive roads. It doesn't necessarily add up.

I don't drive. I ride my bicycle. I know, I'll never get people to stop griping. Maybe the license tab shouldn't have been broken in the first place, but on the other hand, if they decide to track cars with GPS, I'm okay with that also.

They can even track my bicycle. Wait a minute, they'd be charging me a tax also. I'm almost okay with that; a reasonable fee at least. Traveling through Wisconsin on a bike tour, I didn't mind buying the day permit that helped pay for maintaining Sparta to Elroy Trail. Year permits are available also. The permit is good for many of the Wisconsin bike trails that charge for their use. I think the Wisconsin program is run by their state department of natural resources.

Now why have I gotten on that subject? Oh oh, I've opened a Pandora's box now.

1 comment:

Robert Ashworth said...

My posts also go to my Facebook wall where discussion takes place. Related to that discussion, I do feel that a charge by the mile system is best. I would be less worried about the privacy issues from GPS than some other people even if I did drive. With some kind of charge by mile, there is incentive for using the car sparingly even when one owns a car.