Have you seen this editorial?

July 6, 2016

(Please read and share the attached editorial from today’s Waterbury Republican-American. Connecticut government has a serious taxing addiction that is funding its spending habit. Connecticut needs an intervention to go into DE-TAX!! Please tell me your thoughts at Toni.Boucher@cga.ct.gov .)

Mileage tax

First, cure spending urge

Congress enacted Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards way back in 1975. Today, Connecticut lawmakers’ brows are furrowing over the inevitable and intentional outcome of this law: the emergence of high-efficiency motor vehicles like the 58-mpg Toyota Prius. Modern cars and trucks, from minicars to sport utility vehicles, consume substantially less fuel than, say, the 1975 Cadillac Eldorado, which gulped a gallon of gasoline every 11 miles. As a CAFE consequence, drivers pay lower gasoline taxes, which are assessed on a per-gallon basis.

Who’d’a thunk it?

Not our esteemed lawmakers, who just don’t know what to do about those lagging gasoline-tax receipts. Indeed, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection this month extended and expanded the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR) program to encourage residents to buy all-electric or hybrid cars — whose owners pay little or no gasoline tax.

Ah, but they’ve come up with a solution: assess motor-vehicle taxes by the mile driven rather than by the gallon of gasoline pumped into the tank.

The state Department of Transportation has filed a grant application to join several other states in a federal pilot program to develop a “mileage tax.”

The state would match $300,000 from the federal government.

According to Channel 8 News’ Mark Davis, “With GPS and smartphones, the idea of the state charging you for the number of miles you drive is technologically possible.”

Research firm Rand Corp. indicates there are several ways to implement such a tax: conducting “periodic odometer inspections;” installing on-board electronic units that would compile and transmit data to the taxing agency; and developing smartphone applications serving the same purpose.

Senate Minority Leader Leonard A. Fasano, R-North Haven, believes the state bureaucracy is on the on-ramp to enacting a mileage tax, even though officials say they aren’t serious about it at present. “At a time when Connecticut’s finances are strapped, I can’t imagine the administration would want to throw away $300,000 or more on a pilot program if they truly have no intention of implementing it,” he said June 29.

It’s perfectly understandable that lawmakers who are convinced Connecticut has a revenue problem — not a spending problem — would gravitate to notions like the mileage tax.

Millionaires are pulling up stakes, or legitimately claiming reduced income and bigger deductions; the gasoline tax, casino revenues and other user-based tax receipts are declining for various reasons; the infamous gross-receipts tax on motor fuels has fallen with the worldwide reduction in fuel prices.

It’s abundantly clear that a mileage tax would be very expensive to implement, requiring costly technology, more manpower or both.

It also would be controversial and probably unfair.

Before even contemplating such a tax, lawmakers need to gain control of the spending addiction that’s at the root of all the other problems.