State Rep. Ed Soliday should be commended for looking at a pilot program to explore alternative ways to fund road construction in Indiana. The existing gas tax just isn't generating enough revenue.
Among the reasons gas tax collections are down are improved fuel efficiency, people are driving less and the increased use of alternative fuels that aren't taxed.
Soliday, R-Valparaiso, has proposed a pilot program in which volunteer motorists would be exempt from the gas tax in exchange for paying a fee for every mile they drive.
A similar program was authorized this year in Oregon. Participating motorists there would pay 1.5 cents per mile instead of the 30-cent tax per gallon of gasoline.
If that per-mile rate were used in Indiana, a driver who puts 12,000 miles a year on a car that gets 20 miles per gallon would pay $180 in mileage fees instead of $108 for gas tax, at 18 cents per gallon.
Matthew Dorfman, a consultant for Oregon, told Indiana lawmakers the collection methods could include a sticker authorizing unlimited use of the vehicle to using GPS technology on in-vehicle electronic devices that would distinguish between in-state and out-of-state miles.
Soliday's plan calls for the Indiana Department of Transportation to use volunteers to test different technologies and methods for assessing a per-mile charge and to report back to the General Assembly in two years.
That study should also include an attempt to apportion the cost of wear and tear on roads to different vehicles by weight and type, not just by mile.
Also, while switching to alternative fuels is good for the environment, it's not so good for funding road repairs. Look at whether alternative fuels like compressed natural gas should be taxed or whether a per-mile charge or flat fee should apply to those vehicles.
"We need to keep moving forward on how we fund our roads," Soliday said. "I'm not leaning in any direction, but to ignore what's going on in the rest of the country would be foolish."
That's why Indiana needs this study on alternative ways to fund road maintenance and construction. Look at which vehicles cause the most damage as well as making sure all vehicles pay their fair share.