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Report: Florida Should Tax Drivers Per Mile Instead Of Per Gallon

Electric vehicle is plugged into a charging outlet
Since electric vehicles don’t need gas, their drivers aren’t paying the per-gallon gas taxes that help fund road construction and maintenance in Florida.

Florida’s road network depends heavily on per-gallon taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. Those taxes are used to fund road construction and maintenance.

In the coming two decades, Florida’s gas tax may need to be doubled over the current average of 36.7 cents per gallon in order to offset the decline in revenue caused by more fuel-efficient cars.

A new report by the James Madison Institute explains that’s why taxes should be charged per mile instead of per gallon.

“Cars go twice as far on a gallon of gas as they used to,” says the report’s author, Robert Poole. He’s with the nonprofit Reason Foundation, a public policy think tank. “The other thing is electric vehicles are going to be a bigger and bigger part of the fleet. They don’t use any gas, so they don’t pay anything.”

Options for tracking mileage include using smartphones, Sunpass accounts, or odometer readings during annual vehicle registrations.

Poole says pilot projects are underway around the country to figure out the best way to tax per mile. He says Congress just awarded $15 million for another batch of these pilots in various states. Florida so far hasn’t opted to participate. Poole suspects it’s because Republican leaders “thought the idea of charging per mile would be seen by people as a new tax.”

The per mile charge would be a replacement for the current charges per gallon. “The advantage is that over time, it would keep pace with the growth of population, the growth in driving, and so forth,” Poole says. “It would be a sustainable long term source (of revenue), whereas the gas tax is going to be very much a declining source over the next several decades.”

You can read the policy brief here.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.