North Carolina needs to work harder to explore feasible noninvasive ways to generate transportation revenues and reduce vehicle exhaust emissions.
But there's a right way and a wrong way to tackle budgetary shortfalls and air pollution.
In a recent interview with WRAL N.C. Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti proposed adding a mileage tax as a solution for generating highway funds.
An increased gas tax would be a much more realistic and effective approach.
Tracking and enforcing a mileage tax is problematic for several reasons.
Installing GPS tracking devices in vehicles and charging drivers by the mile discourage individuals from driving fuel-efficient cars.
The University of Iowa is studying the affectability of satellite technology that would allow the state government to tax citizens per mile with varying rates depending on when and where they drive. The Triangle is one of the six regions in which the technology is being tested.
A tracking system might sound innovative but it is not the right solution for generating transportation revenues in this state because of the high input cost.
A gas tax generates revenue and costs nothing to implement.
A mileage tax would work better to reduce congestion in densely populated metropolitan areas than it would in area as large and thinly populated as Research Triangle Park. And implementing it here would most likely cost an exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars to implement.
In addition a system that tags vehicles and tracks people's locations causes privacy concerns for drivers. For example such information can be used against individuals in court. What if your spouse used your travel records against you in divorce court?
The potential problems associated with a GPS tracking system far outweigh the solutions that such a system would provide.
Conti told WRAL that revenues from the current gas tax level do not cover the Department of Transportation's current budget. But increasing the tax in the future would help to fill that gap.
Unlike enacting a mileage tax increasing the gas tax would cost the state little to implement would encourage drivers to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles and would not invade privacy.
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