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State considers taxing drivers per mile, doing away with gas tax

State considers taxing drivers per...

Lawmakers want to change Washington's gas tax and start taxing drivers based on how often they use the road.

Right now, driving a fuel-efficient car can save you money in gas, but under the new program, vehicles that get higher mileage would end up paying more in taxes, while vehicles getting lower mileage would pay less than they do now.

The Washington State Transportation Commission is beginning a pilot program to test a per-mile charging system. It would tax drivers for every mile they drive, rather than taxing the fuel they use.

People like Brian Allen, who drives often for work, say a mileage tax is unfair to those who must drive often. "By taxing people through their mileage, I think it discriminates people that drive a lot for work," he said.

The transportation commission says as cars become more fuel efficient, the state is losing revenue from the gas tax, which is essential for road projects and maintenance. But, Allen says that's not a compelling enough argument.

"The ratio of fuel efficient cars to non-fuel efficient cars, especially the electric ones, isn't at a tipping point yet, where that's not a very good argument for the rest of the population that is concerned with this," he said.

But, others think it could be a good way to get drivers looking for more environmentally friendly options.

"Public transportation, I use it sometimes and I can see the benefit of pushing more people, you know, towards that and car-sharing and all that stuff, so I don't think it's bad," said Spokane resident Katie Shaw.

The commission says it would need to charge 2.4 cents per mile to make as much as the current gas tax at 49.5 cents per gallon. Payments could be made through odometer readings, time-based use permits or through on-board mileage readers or a smartphone app.

The commission says this would require drivers of electric vehicles to start paying taxes for the roads they use, while drivers of the less fuel-efficient cars could catch a break. It also says it would have to tax drivers coming into the state of Washington.

It is looking for 2,000 volunteers to test out the pilot program in 2017.