This isn't good for gearheads at all...
It seems like these days car enthusiasts are facing increased scrutiny for a variety of reasons, but a new plan from the US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg would add taxation to the insults. A clip posted to Twitter shows Buttigieg in an interview on CNBC touting the benefits of taxing drivers in the United States based on the mileage they drive. We think this is a horrible idea which will affect gearheads negatively.
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Car enthusiasts drive for the pure pleasure of driving. While some people think the Sunday afternoon drive is dead, a relic of the past, those of us who have a hobby car relish those relaxing weekend drives for no other purpose than to just enjoy a fun-to-drive vehicle. On top of that, automotive enthusiasts will often drive great distances to participate in car meets, shows, etc. and they might log even more mileage in an organized cruise or rally. A mileage tax would punish all car people for enjoying the hobby.
Since many classic cars and performance vehicles don’t get great gas mileage already, we’re definitely paying our fair share in fuel taxes. To add to that with more taxes for distance driven is just adding to injury.
Car enthusiasts do a fair amount of community service, too. Aside from cruising by a child’s house to make a birthday celebration special, many car clubs help raise funds for schools, children’s hospitals, and other charitable causes.
In the clip, the off-camera reporter asks Buttigieg, “What about a mileage-based tax?” Buttigieg replies, “So, I think that shows a lot of promise. If we believe in that so-called ‘user pays principle’ the idea that part of how we pay for roads is you pay based on how much you drive. Ah, the gas tax used to be the obvious way to do it; it’s not anymore, so a so-called ‘vehicle miles traveled tax’ or ‘mileage tax’ whatever you want to call it could be a way to do it.”
Unfortunately, Buttigieg doesn’t elaborate exactly what he meant in the clip, which admittedly is short. Is the gas tax not effective anymore because of electrification or the fact cars are becoming more fuel-efficient overall? We don’t know exactly what he’s thinking, but those arguments have been used before for a vehicle mileage tax.
An important point to consider is how the government will know the distance people have traveled each year. Sure, you could just show off the odometer in a car when getting your emissions inspection done, but that would add an incentive for people to engage in odometer fraud. The government could install trackers on all the cars and really become Big Brother. It seems enforcement of this tax could be rife with problems.
With EVs on the road, the argument is those people aren’t paying for infrastructure since they escape the gas tax. While true, there still are few all-electric vehicles on US roads, so the vast majority of drivers are footing the bill for infrastructure investment, assuming funds from gas taxes are used on roads and not dipped into for all kinds of other expenditures. Either Buttigieg is incredibly naïve and doesn’t realize this, or he does and this is just a way to nickle and dime the already stretched thin taxpayers for more money.
Besides hurting enthusiasts disproportionately, it hits low-income and middle-class drivers more than the wealthy. Those with tight budgets will be negatively affected far worse by a change in tax code, and it’s established that the wealthy drive far shorter distances to commute to work every day. Not to mention many blue collar workers in fields like construction drive all over the place to reach a work site.
We really hope this comment from Buttigieg was just off the cuff and isn’t a serious policy consideration. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to make all of our voices heard in opposition to a vehicle mileage tax.