Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Drivers Alliance, NMA, Speak Out Against Mileage Tax

On February 6, the Maryland Drivers Alliance testified in favor of House Bill 277, which would forbid the creation of a Vehicle Mile Traveled (VMT) tax in the state.

The bill, sponsored by Delegate Justin Ready(R, Carroll County) and 23 other delegates, also bans the state from requiring the installation of devices for the purpose of collecting such a tax (most likely GPS based) into private vehicles.

The Maryland Department of Transportation called for the creation of a mileage tax on top of existing gas taxes by 2020.  In last year's testimony on a similar bill, the DOT's representative stated that they wanted to "keep the option" for a mileage tax, but refused to answer more specific questions from lawmakers about what they were planning.  The fiscal policy notes reference the 2012 draft plan which called for a mileage fee, and notes that "MDOT is working to identify potential transportation pricing and travel demand management incentive programs for consideration, including VMT fees".

A member of the Maryland Drivers Alliance spoke at the hearing in the Ways and Means Committee in support of the bill and against the DOT's plan for the creation of a Mileage Tax, citing the intrusive nature of a tax which requires tracking huge amounts of information about the moments of individual private vehicles.
The National Motorists Association (NMA), also supported the bill with written testimony.  Excerpts from the NMA's testimony follow:
The National Motorists Association (NMA) strongly supports House Bill 277, which would prohibit the state of Maryland or a local jurisdiction from imposing a tax or fee on vehicle owners based on the number of miles they travel. The measure would also prohibit the state or a local jurisdiction from requiring the installation of devices in or on private vehicles for the purposes of tracking and reporting vehicle miles traveled (VMT). 
[...]The requirement to equip every private vehicle on the road with a GPS transponder becomes onerous in many ways, but particularly due to the costs involved. Estimates to purchase and install a  GPS tracking device range from $50 to $100 per vehicle at scale.  There are 4.5 million privately owned )personal and commercial) vehicles registered in Maryland.  So even at the low end, that's a $225million expenditure and Maryland’s drivers and taxpayers would no doubt bear the brunt of this cost. Note that this does not include the costs to build the infrastructure/systems required to collect and report the data, or the costs to administer the program. When those are accounted for, the all-in costs to implement a VMT tax would be staggering.  
[...]The need to track every vehicle everywhere it goes raises serious privacy concerns. With recent revelations of the extent of National Security Agency (NSA) domestic surveillance operations, more and more Americans are becoming sensitized to the erosion of their constitutional right to privacy. Tracking motorists’ every move is intrusive, smacks of government overreach and would likely create significant public backlash. 
[...]A Vehicle Miles Traveled tax, if implemented in Maryland, would create financial hardship for many state residents due to the costs involved. It would also represent an intrusion on personal privacy and limit the freedom of state residents to travel freely as they choose. House Bill 277, if passed, would prohibit the imposition of a VMT tax and prevent the negative consequences that would result. 

Insurance Company AAA made no appearance at the hearing.