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The National Association of State Highway and Transportation Unions (NASHTU) is dedicated to ensuring that federal transportation dollars are spent on cost-effective, safe projects that serve the public interest. NASHTU is comprised of 38 unions and associations representing hundreds of thousands of state and locally employed transportation engineers, construction managers and inspectors, technical workers and related public servants from throughout the United States.

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March 18, 2021

Is a VMT-based Tax the Future of Transportation Funding?

With the COVID-19 relief package successfully through Congress, the next big priority for the Biden Administration is the passage of a massive infrastructure bill that will stimulate the American economy.  During President Biden’s campaign for the White House, he proposed a plan that would spend $2 trillion on infrastructure, including massive investments in transportation, energy, water, climate change, broadband, and many other sectors.

While Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle are mostly in agreement that more investment in infrastructure is needed, there is no consensus on how to pay for the needed infrastructure improvements.  One idea that is gaining traction nationwide is the use of a VMT, or vehicle-miles-traveled tax to replace the ever-shrinking gas tax.

The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon was last increased in 1993 and is not automatically adjusted for inflation.  The combination of the declining purchasing power of an almost 30-year-old gas tax, increasing fuel efficiency of newer gas-powered vehicles, and the expanding use of electric vehicles has created a perfect storm that is causing a transportation funding crisis.  Since 2008, Congress has had to backfill the Highway Trust Fund with billions of dollars of general fund monies each year just to make up for shortfalls in the fund.

Proponents of a VMT-based system believe that shifting transportation funding from a gas tax-based system to a VMT-based system could capture dollars lost to fuel-efficiency and electric vehicles while preserving the “user pays” principle for transportation funding.

A recent article in the Washington Post delves into the recent history of a VMT tax.  The article covers pilot programs in Oregon and Utah, and says many other states are exploring legislation that would study how a VMT-based system would work in their states.  The federal government – under a program created in the last surface transportation authorization, the FAST Act – has issued tens of millions of dollars in grants to back state projects exploring mileage-based tax programs.

The article also covers the many obstacles to the implementation of a VMT tax-based system, including collection, privacy concerns, inequities between rural and urban drivers, and how to continue to incentivize the purchase of cleaner, fuel-efficient vehicles.

To read the full article in the Washington Post, click here.

2020 NASHTU Conference – Canceled

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, the 21st Annual NASHTU Conference – scheduled for April 20-22, 2020 in Washington D.C. – has been canceled.

Given the uncertainty about the length of the crisis, and given the limited congressional calendar in an election year, it is simply not possible at this time to reschedule the conference for this year.

We will be refunding any registration fees paid to date.  Please contact the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill at 202/737-1234 to cancel your room reservations.

We look forward to seeing you at the NASHTU conference in the spring of 2021.  If you have any questions, please contact NASHTU at nashtu@nashtu.us.