« Four State Senate Races to Watch | Main | Report negative campaign literature to 1-888-610-8170 »

October 30, 2004

Untangling Transportation Tax Options

Voters in King County will find a rather odd and confusing item on their ballots -- an advisory mesaure on transportation funding. It's a rather bizarre, non-binding question that asks us whether we want to see a comprehensive county transportation funding package, and if so, how we'd like to fund it. Voting for a regional transportation package is a no-brainer, but the funding mechanism question is a real head-scratcher if you're not a serious policy wonk.

Here's what the voters' pamphlet says.

This advisory measure asks which tax source the voters in King County would prefer be used to support a transportation plan designed to relieve traffic congestion and increase safety through a mix of road and transit projects in King County. This plan would require voter approval at a future date. Which one of the following tax sources would you prefer be included in a plan to locally fund road and transit projects in King County?


* a general sales tax
* an excise tax on the value of motor vehicles
* a flat tax on motor vehicles
* an increase in the local gas tax
* a tax on total annual vehicle miles traveled

Fortunately, Alan Durning of Northwest Environment Watch
steps in to sort it out with his usual common sense thinking:

I recommend pulling for the tax on the total annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT).... A VMT does the best job of getting prices to tell the truth: all driving, even in fuel-efficient vehicles, creates costs for nondrivers and society, such as road wear, noise, a nuisance to pedestrians and communities, and the risk of accident. A vehicle mile tax is the closest thing to a straight user fee for driving. (The idea is similar to pay-as-you-drive car insurance.)

Gas taxes are my second choice--a close second--because they also vary with the amount of driving you do. Gas taxes also modestly encourage the use of more efficient vehicles. But they tend to reinforce the notion that gasoline consumption is the only problem created by cars. That's why I mildly prefer the VMT option.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 30, 2004 at 07:00 AM in Ballot Initiatives, Policy | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Untangling Transportation Tax Options:

Post a comment