Driving a fuel-efficient car might be great for the environment and even better for your wallet, but state and federal projects funded by gasoline taxes are starting to feel the pinch.
It's a classic conundrum: we expect a safe and well-maintained infrastructure that relies on a tax system that will continue to draw less revenue as our cars get more efficient.
As agencies try to find a way to pay for repair and maintenance of roadways, CBS News reports that more states are testing pay-as-you-drive taxes to augment or replace those tied to gasoline sales.
A few states will begin pilot programs soon, using devices similar to those used by some car insurance companies to track the mileage and driving style of drivers who opt to use the device. Next year, Oregon will start the largest program to date, using 5,000 volunteers that will pay a tax of 1.5 cents per mile rather than 30 cents per gallon. California, Minnesota and Nevada are also looking into similar programs.
While they could raise more money that could be used to upgrade deteriorating roadways across the U.S., pay-per-mile taxes could also be seen as punishment toward drivers who choose more efficient vehicles like hybrids or electric vehicles. With a per-mile gas tax, the incentive would just be to drive fewer miles rather than burn less gas.
The topic is already politically charged. The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would have provided $90 million for the U.S. government to start its own pilot program consisting of 10,000 vehicles, but it was shot down by the House. Rural constituents felt they would be penalized since they driver longer distances than those who live in bigger cities.
Inevitably, there's the larger debate over mandatory tracking of vehicles, as political groups at both extremes (from the Tea Party to the American Civil Liberties Union) voice their concerns over privacy issues.