An Unexpected Advocate for Utah's Vehicle-Miles-Traveled Fee

One would expect the Utah Taxpayers Association to oppose county measures to increase general sales taxes by .25 percent to fund transportation programs, so their endorsement of an alternative revenue option, the mileage fee, is surprising.

2 minute read

July 25, 2015, 11:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Even before the five-cent gas tax increase goes into effect on January 1, counties in Utah will have the option to allow voters to increase general sales taxes by one-quarter percent in November due to a provision in the the legislation signed in March by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert.

The group makes clear they are for good roads and transit—it's the non-user fee mechanism, the sales tax "which has no direct correlation to Utah’s roads" they oppose.

Instead of trying to hide the cost of Utah’s roads in a sales tax, Utah’s lawmakers need to be innovative and forward thinking in how the state can ensure the transportation funding system is sustainable long term.

They need to consider a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) system of assessing individual road use and funding highways. This type of funding mechanism would ensure that the cost of roads is borne by the users and would prevent alternative fuel users from avoiding paying their fair share for the use of the state’s transportation system.

The group adds that "Utah is already part of a twelve state coalition [PDF] studying VMT as a way of funding highways. Your Utah Taxpayers Association encourages greater exploration into VMT by UDOT and the State Legislature."

Notwithstanding this recent endorsement of user fees, it did not prevent the group in March from blasting Gov. Herbert for signing the gas tax increase legislation.

Sales tax revenues raised on a local level would be substantial. If all counties agree to put the transportation sales tax measures on the ballot and they all pass, the revenues would be twice the amount of the additional five-cent gas tax in 2016 according to a fiscal note in HB 362, adds the taxpayers association.

What may be particularly noteworthy about the group's position, in addition to a taxpayer group endorsing a mileage fee, is that heretofore most comparisons have been between gas taxes and vehicle-miles-traveled fees, not the latter and sales taxes.

While the Utah Taxpayers Association may be the first, if not only taxpayers group to support a VMT fee, they are certainly not alone.

A July survey of transportation professionals by Politico found that respondents agreed that "(t)he gas tax, our main source of highway money since the 1950s, is probably doomed" and that "the most promising idea, to judge by the numbers, is to charge individual drivers a mileage fee."

Monday, June 15, 2015 in Utah Taxpayers Association

Black and white Rideshare Pick-Up Zone sign

The Slow Death of Ride Sharing

From the beginning, TNCs like Lyft and Uber touted shared rides as their key product. Now, Lyft is ending the practice.

June 1, 2023 - Human Transit

Red on white 'Room for Rent, Inquire Inside' sign

In Most U.S. Cities, Archaic Laws Limit Roommate Living

Critics argue laws preventing unrelated adults from living in the same home fail to understand the modern American household.

May 24, 2023 - The Atlantic

Vancouver Chuck Wolfe

Ten Signs of a Resurgent Downtown

In GeekWire, Chuck Wolfe continues his exploration of a holistic and practical approach to post-pandemic urban center recovery, anchored in local context and community-driven initiatives that promote livability, safety, and sustainability.

May 24, 2023 - GeekWire

Vacant storefront in historic building on Powell Street in San Francisco, California

Few Landlords Pay San Francisco Vacancy Tax

Less than 3 percent of properties potentially subject to a new vacancy tax were filed as vacant in the last year, but empty storefronts in the city persist.

6 hours ago - San Francisco Chronicle

Aerial view of manufactured home being dropped off or moved by red truck in mobile home park

In Spite of Affordability Crisis, Richmond Rejects Manufactured Housing Plan

After declaring a housing crisis, the Virginia capital’s city council voted against a proposed manufactured home warehouse that would distribute replacements for aging manufactured housing stock.

June 4 - Greater Greater Washington

Graphic for '1000 Joys of Planning' with The Planning Commission Podcast

A Planning Commission Podcast Journey: The 1,000 Joys of Planning

The Commissioners explore the facets of the planning profession that fill their cups with joy.

June 4 - The Planning Commission Podcast

Project Manager III

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

UDO Transportation Planner

City of Charlotte - Charlotte Area Transit

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.