Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) floated the idea of enacting a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax as a way to fund infrastructure projects.
A VMT would charge motorists based on how many miles they drive their cars.
“Some transportation experts have begun to take a keen interest in a vehicle miles traveled charge or VMT – that fee for each mile of travel should serve as an alternative to the motor fuels tax, and I think it will eventually,” Price said last week during a discussion on “The Future of Infrastructure Investment” held by the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program, the Center for European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Delegation of the European Union to the United States.
“This revenue source has some serious privacy concerns when you think about how it would be implemented, the collection cost issues, and there are a number of issues involved in that kind of approach – but it obviously would be an improvement on the fuels tax, and that may be where we go.”
Price also said Congress should consider raising the gas tax as a funding source for a public infrastructure package. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the federal government currently imposes a tax of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on highway diesel fuel.
“Increasing the gas tax, indexing it to inflation, seems to me that’s a basic recommendation which we should act on, and we should explore the VMT option for the long haul,” he suggested.
Price, a member of House Appropriations Committee, said he personally would support an “all of the above” funding strategy for an infrastructure bill passed by Congress.
“Let’s do whatever it takes to get the revenue in place and do what we need to do. We need to pay our way as a country and we would be better off if we were a lot less dogmatic about exactly how we pay our way,” he said.
Price, ranking member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, said he agreed with Trump’s focus on improving the nation’s infrastructure during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I agree. Democrats and Republicans agree. We all say we agree. We profess that this is a common commitment to improve our nation’s aging bridges and crumbling roads and leaking sewers and congested airports,” he said.
President Trump has shown support for a $1 trillion public private partnership infrastructure plan. Price argued that the Trump administration’s infrastructure proposal does not go far enough.
“That plan, as sketchy as it is, could potentially gain some bipartisan support but it’s not being pushed right now, it’s really been put on the back burner by the leadership in Congress and, for that matter, by the president as they attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pursue other legislative priorities,” he said.
Price said public-private partnerships are not a “cure-all” for the nation’s infrastructure problems.
“But they can and should be part of the broader solution to repair and upgrade our facilities,” he said. “We’re just not going to be able to create the infrastructure we need without increased and sustained public investment.”
Price also said the need to vote on increasing the debt ceiling is “nonsense.”
“We shouldn’t be voting on the debt ceiling in the first place, let alone holding the country hostage to somebody’s preferred amendments to the debt ceiling,” the congressman said. “Raise the debt ceiling. We’ve incurred the debt; pay the debt. It’s simply an invitation for political mischief.”