Here in Michigan we badly need road maintenance and repairs. Perhaps as much as a billion dollars a year worth! The problem is: Where do we get the money to do it? When Governor Snyder cut taxes on business (under the previous governor, business here in Michigan was heavily taxed), he had to raise taxes on the people of Michigan to balance the budget. Even so, cuts had to be made. Schools had to “make do” with less. The state “Earned Income Tax Credit” was cut, and senior’s pensions were now “taxable”. The gasoline tax was raised, but the sales tax portion didn’t go to the roads, but to schools.
This was the great failure of Proposal 1. In exchange for raising the state sales tax from 6% to 7%, the state would be able to start fixing the roads, give the schools more money, and restore the state Earned Income Tax Credit. The problem was that there was a lack of trust as to “where” the money would go once collected. Sufficient that Proposal 1 went down to defeat by a margin of 80% against to only 20% for. Michigan’s Republican administration doesn’t want to have to raise taxes, but there is little choice but to either raise taxes or start cutting funding for existing programs to find the necessary funds. There are three possible places where this could be done. State support of the tourist industry, state support of economic development of businesses, and the state support of movie makers. The last really doesn’t amount to much, and cutting the others would likely do more harm than good. There also doesn’t seem to be much interest in raising the gasoline and diesel fuel taxes further, although this to me seems to be a better choice it is “road users” who are paying the tax that goes to support maintenance and repair of the roads on which they drive. And “user fees” (which fuel taxes are) puts the tax directly upon the “users” instead of taxing everyone else as raising the state sales tax would do. Especially now with the much lower prices being charged today for gasoline and diesel fuel. The objections appear to be upon the basis that the working poor would have to pay higher taxes to drive to work.
There is also the problem that Michigan allows trucks weighing up to 82 tons on its major roads. That is a “lot” of weight! And one of the reasons our roads are breaking up. Massive weight causes a road to develop hairline cracks. In the winter, these cracks fill up with water which freezes. When water freezes, it creates irresistible force that widens cracks. The wider crack fills with water, freezes, crack grows larger. The process continues until a chunk of pavement is forced up, knocked out by passing vehicles, and then we have a pot hole that will continue to grow larger and larger with time. It is noteworthy where there are no heavy trucks using the road, there are usually very few pot holes. Proof if any is needed where the damage is being done and “who” is doing it! It makes a lot of sense to tax those who are the major creators of the problem, which can be best done by a “user fee” system that is based upon both mileage and vehicle weight. Or in “ton/miles” here. Taxes would be accessed based upon odometer readings and vehicle weight. Fuel taxes would be eliminated, so the cost gasoline and diesel fuel would be lower than it is now. Collections would be perhaps on a monthly or quarterly basis. Since the weight of all makes of cars is well known, it is only necessary to read odometer mileage every so often. There are various means of doing this, but it is relatively simple and could do done at say a car dealer’s. The “details” of all this would have to be worked out by the state government.
A “user fee” using “ton/miles” would be based upon a fraction of a cent per ton/mile. Todays cars range in weight from about 2500 lbs to about 4500 lbs. Or 1.25 ton/miles to 2.25/ton/miles. A maximum weight truck would be 82 ton/miles. Effectively everyone pays according weight and miles traveled. The roads are financed, taxes are “pay as you go” and only road users end up paying.