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January 17, 2013 at 7:00 AM

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Washington state considers taxing drivers by mile

Gasoline taxes should be indexed

The state is inching toward making motorists pay road tax by the mile [“State will look into levying road tax by mile,” NWThursday, Jan. 9]. It should be a non-starter on privacy issues alone, but the supporting arguments are equally weak.

Unless battery technology takes a great leap forward, it’s hard to find a credible source predicting more than a niche market for completely electric cars in the near future. That leaves a road full of hybrids and more-efficient conventionally powered cars to tax.

We’re told that gasoline tax collections lag because the average person drives fewer miles per year, but a cursory glance at highway congestion tells us that our increasing population more than compensates, even during a severe recession. Gasoline taxes are also said to be outmoded because of increases in fuel efficiency, a strange bit of logic.

If I replace my current car, which averages 20 miles per gallon, with a similar-sized hybrid that gets 40 miles per gallon, my gasoline bill will be cut in half. Hoo-rah!

The problem lies in the fact that my new, efficient hybrid weighs just as much as my old car, meaning I’ll be helping to create just as many potholes as before, but only contributing half the taxes to fix them. Why should I escape paying my fair share to cover wear and tear to the roads?

Just as federal income-tax brackets and the state minimum wage are indexed for inflation, gasoline taxes should be indexed to match average fuel-efficiency gains.

--Dick Sanders, Kent

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