Replace: Is a Mile-Based mostly Highway Cost in Pennsylvania’s Future?

August 6, 2021

Despite the third highest gasoline tax in the country, Pennsylvania officials still want more revenue. A bipartisan body recently submitted a report to Governor Tom Wolf outlining possible alternatives to the state gasoline tax. In the first place is the kilometer-based usage fee (MBUF).

Wolf formed the Transportation Revenue Options Commission (TROC) five months ago to investigate the issue. This group offered a number of options to replace or amend the state’s existing gas tax to generate revenue for road and bridge maintenance.

These options included increasing fees for vehicle registration, vehicle rental or leasing, as well as for electric vehicles, and converting parts of restricted-access freeways to toll roads. In addition, the Commission has introduced the possibility of charging drivers for the miles they drive each year with a particular vehicle, a Mileage Based Usage Fee (MBUF).

Another proposal called for the state’s current fuel tax to be linked to inflation.

In addition to supporting PennDOT’s current $ 8.8 billion budget, the revenue is also expected to support an additional $ 9.35 for highway repairs and upgrades, the report said.

In a letter to the governor that was attached to the report, PennDOT secretary Yassmin Gramian, chair of the commission, said the state must take a new approach to meeting its long-term transportation needs, citing a decline in gas tax revenues. This is a growing nationwide problem as more electric vehicles hit the streets.

At the end of 2020, Pennsylvania ranked 15th with 17,530 electric vehicles registered in the state, according to Alternative Fuels Data Center.

However, the main reason for the decline in gas tax revenues is the increase in fuel-efficient vehicles.

Pennsylvania’s gasoline tax is 58.7 cents per gallon (75.2 for diesel fuel). This puts Pennsylvania just behind California (66.9) and Illinois (59.56). In addition, motorists nationwide pay a federal excise tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline, a rate that hasn’t changed since October 1993.

Gramian made it clear that she viewed the MBUF as the most practical long-term solution to PennDOT’s funding problems.

“The mile-based user fee (MBUF) approach represents the most promising long-term solution for Pennsylvania and nationwide,” she said, to align transportation revenue with the needs of the system. “However, a full MBUF system may still be a long way off. In the meantime, we need bold action to meet the system’s improvement and maintenance requirements and pave the way for MBUF.”

The committee’s report is now in the hands of the Budget and Senate Committees for Resources and Transport.

Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis at the Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank, said the state should hold back the MBUF until it improves the spending side of the equation.

“When it comes to financing transportation, the most important principle is ‘user pay’,” she said. “You want to create a transport system in which the infrastructure users are the infrastructure users. The problem with the TROC study is that they were only allowed to look at one side of the issue, and that is the revenue side. “

For Stellen, the most important issue is not how the money is raised, but how it is spent. She cited a November 2020 study that found Pennsylvania below the national average for the quality of its urban roads and above the national average for state spending per mile.

“You weren’t allowed to look at the sending side,” she said. “How are you doing with the use of the money you have? And this is something that worries us very much, because Pennsylvania does not do very well when it comes to the quality of our roads.”

Rob Altenburg, senior director of energy and climate for the environmental group Penn Future, was concerned that the commission was neglecting environmental issues.

“They had pretty broad representation on the committee, but they didn’t have environmental representation on the committee. They didn’t have people focusing on some of these broader issues. Our roads have serious problems and we have to come up with a few.” sustainable funding mechanism to maintain these roads. “

Altenburg found that the current gas tax has advantages and disadvantages.

“As a disadvantage, it is certainly a regressive tax. In the US as a whole, poorer people spend a lot more of their income on transportation … they also distribute payments for a gas tax, not necessarily fair car will have better mileage than an older car. So someone better off will pay less tax when people buy new cars. “

It is up to lawmakers to decide how to finance road and bridge maintenance, he said, but it will take a lot of effort to get these changes through.

“Passing everything is a challenge,” he said. “But one of the areas where there is likely to be more bipartisan agreement than others is the highway infrastructure … Our lawmakers in particular have an incredibly difficult time getting revenue from all sources. But it seems like road and bridge maintenance really hits it all. “Voters tough enough that when it comes to postponing a revenue package, this might be the area you will see it in.”

And it’s not just Pennsylvania. The bipartisan Infrastructure Act, currently under review in Washington, DC, includes a pilot program that calculates drivers based on vehicle miles driven.

The Delaware Valley Journal provides unbiased local coverage for the suburbs of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties in Philadelphia. For more stories from the Delaware Valley Journal, visit