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Is A Mileage-Based User Fee A Likely Replacement For The State's Gasoline Tax?

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - Finding alternatives to the state's gasoline tax is the task at hand for a new bipartisan transportation revenue commission appointed by the governor.

The commission is expected to look at alternatives to the state's gasoline tax. Replacing the gasoline tax is not going to be easy.

Nobody likes the state's 59-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax, one of the highest in the nation, and with more electric and fuel-efficient cars, the gas tax is not bringing in the revenue to repair our roads.

That's why we get proposals to toll bridges, and nobody likes that either. Is there an alternative?

"It's actually pretty simple to think about which is instead of paying by the gallon, you pay by the mile you drive," says Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott Matthews.

It's called a mileage-based user fee -- get rid of the gasoline tax altogether and replace it with a fee based on how many miles you drive. The more you drive, the more you pay.

A Carnegie Mellon University study of this fee found on average that most Pennsylvanians drive around 10,000 miles each year and pay $200 in gas taxes.

"Charging two cents a mile, drive 10,000 miles, that's $200. For those cars that are the average ones, people in those situations would see no net difference in what they were paying," says Matthews.

An alternative to the gas tax is needed, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told KDKA money editor Jon Delano earlier this month.

"Sooner or later, we've got to change from the old way of funding our roads and bridges to something different, to something new," said Buttigieg.

Delano: "Are you open to the mileage tax?"

Buttigieg: "There have been ideas for what you call the usage or mileage fee. It could go off your odometer, for example. Same idea, it's just not based on gasoline. Now there are some issues with how you get that data. Can you do it in a way that's respectful of privacy?"

Some states like Oregan and Utah have already moved to a mileage tax, and eight other states are experimenting with it.

Could Pennsylvania be next?

"We're really interested in it," says Alexis Campbell, press secretary for PennDOT. "It's difficult to say how practical it is in the short-term. We don't think it's really a viable short-term option. There are a lot of unanswered questions, and the technology itself isn't quite there yet."

PennDOT says they need $8 billion more to repair all the state's roads and bridges, so whatever the commission proposes, it's likely to hike costs for someone.

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