CARSON CITY, Nev. — The Assembly Growth and Infrastructure Committee was asked Tuesday, April 2, to change the existing gas tax system to a system imposing registration fees based on vehicle miles traveled.
Assemblyman Alexander Assefa, D-Las Vegas, introduced AB401, saying the existing system is no longer able to fund road building and maintenance needs for a couple of reasons.
First, he said cars are becoming much more efficient, using less gasoline than in the past. Second, he said hybrid and electric vehicles escape paying their fair share under a system that taxes fuel per gallon used.
Derek Morse, former head of the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission, said the average gas tax collected per mile driven by light duty vehicles — cars and pickup trucks — has been cut in half since 2008.
Morse said the system proposed in AB401 would use an annual odometer reading collected when the vehicle was smog checked and calculate the estimated taxes paid at the pump. That would be deducted from the vehicle miles traveled tax of a penny per mile driven during the year and the owner would pay the difference at registration.
He said that captures the hybrid and electric vehicles that now largely escape the fuel taxes.
Morse said the odometer reading system avoids a huge privacy issue that comes up when electronics is used to track vehicle usage. He said those systems are hugely expensive as Oregon is finding out in its pilot program and strongly opposed by privacy advocates.
Assefa testified that because of the privacy problem, he could never support such a system.
But several members of the committee said they were concerned not enough research has been done on the proposal to completely validate its impact and that it might reduce the incentive to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Those concerns were also raised by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups who said they have to oppose anything that reduces the incentive to buy more efficient, less polluting vehicles.
The committee took no action on the bill.