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The House has approved an amendment that would prevent the Secretary of Transportation from exploring raising new highway revenues by taxing cars for each mile they drive.
Members are considering the 2013 spending bill for the Transportation Department and other agencies, and late Wednesday, they accepted an amendment from Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) that would block any money in the bill from being used to explore a so-called Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax system. The House approved the language by voice vote.
"There is an important need to come up with new, better ideas on how to appropriately fund our highway trust fund system," Cravaack said. "However, I'm here to tell you today that the concept of using a Vehicle Miles Traveled fee system is not one of those better ideas."
On Wednesday night, Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.) said he opposes Cravaack's amendment because it would prevent the government from exploring a VMT option.
"The amendment is unfortunate, because we're probably going to have to use different kinds of money-raising mechanism in different parts of the country, and this one makes it even not possible for the administration to think about using a vehicle miles tax, even in the major urban areas of the country," Olver said.
A VMT system is increasingly the policy recommendation favored by most transportation policy experts and transportation organizations. One such organization is the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, a body created by Congress to “assess future federal highway and transit investment needs, evaluate the future of the federal Highway Trust Fund, and explore alternative funding and financing mechanisms for surface transportation.”
I had the pleasure to be appointed to the Commission by the Bush Administration (and then to be elected Chair by the Commission members).
We are pleased to transmit to you the final report of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission entitled “Paying Our Way: A New Framework for Transportation Finance.” Over the last two years the Commission has worked to respond to Congress’s charge in Section 11142 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act—A Legacy for Users to assess future federal highway and transit investment needs, evaluate the future of the federal Highway Trust Fund, and explore alternative funding and financing mechanisms for surface transportation.