“CT mileage tax? Phooey.”

August 11, 2016

(Please read and share the attached Hartford Courant Editorial. I strongly oppose the idea of a CT mileage tax, and I know many of you do too. Contact me with your thoughts at Henri.Martin@cga.ct.gov . Thank you!)


(Aug. 11 Hartford Courant Editorial)

CT Mileage Tax Study A Waste Of State Money

CT mileage tax? Phooey. The gas tax does the job.

On the long list of bad ways to tax people, the state continues to consider one of the most odious: a mileage tax, where residents would be charged for every mile they drive.

Both Democrats and Republicans have wisely panned the idea, saying such a tax would be dead on arrival if it were proposed in the legislature.

But despite that, and regardless of the state’s rickety financial situation, Department of Transportation officials recently promised $300,000 in matching funds for a federal study that would look into whether such a tax would work in the busy and badly dilapidated I-95 corridor.

It was a reckless move.

How It Happened

Back in January, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Transportation Finance Panel — the group assembled to figure out how to pay for his $100 billion infrastructure plan — encouraged the state to look into whether a “vehicle miles traveled” tax might be a fair way to get money for the grand vision.

So in May, Connecticut joined with a number of other states in the I-95 corridor and sought matching federal funds to study such a tax. Among all the states participating, Connecticut contributed the most money.

It’s fair to ask why, since a DOT spokesman has insisted that the agency has no plans to implement such a program.

The DOT “has an obligation to understand driver behavior, and applying for a federal grant to study an idea’s feasibility and further our understanding is, simply, what we do — we fight for every dollar available,” Judd Everhart told The Courant recently.

A spokesman for Mr. Malloy echoed Mr. Everhart, saying the state’s highways and bridges desperately need upgrades, along with the rail system. As revenues from the gasoline tax dry up, he said, the state will need to find other ways to pay for its needs.

That’s entirely correct. Transportation investment is a crucial need, and the state has waited too long to address it.

But spending $300,000 to study a tax that has zero chance of legislative approval — at a time when the Old State House and other attractions are shuttered due to lack of funding — is simply bad governing.

Why A Mileage Tax Won’t Work

The grant application describes various ways the state could track drivers’ mileage, from GPS-enabled components installed in the vehicle to smartphone apps and mileage counters that plug into the computer data port. There’s also the idea of a flat fee that wouldn’t count mileage at all.

Mandating the installation of GPS devices in vehicles would be wildly expensive. Requiring drivers to have a smartphone on which a certain app must be deployed — well, imagine the state insisting that residents buy a smartphone so they can be properly taxed.

Mileage counters without GPS features would work even if one drove beyond state lines, into untaxed territory. On the other hand, they could easily be unplugged.

That’s not to mention the potential misuse of GPS data. Officials might promise that drivers’ data would be kept confidential and anonymous and only for a certain amount of time, but data can be stolen and misused, and officials’ successors might not be so inclined to protect personal privacy.

Finally, the gas tax is a mileage tax. The more residents drive, the more gas they use, the more gas tax they pay.

Yes, Connecticut has serious transportation infrastructure problems that need immediate solutions. But a mileage tax will never be one, and the $300,000 pledged to study it is a waste of public money.