GOP lawmaker: 'Legitimate conversations' taking place about taxing the amount of miles you drive

The incoming transportation secretary has floated the idea of a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) system that would charge drivers for the number of miles they travel.

Published: January 27, 2021 2:27pm

Updated: January 28, 2021 3:20pm

New York Republican Rep. Tom Reed, co-chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, said there are "legitimate conversations" taking place among members of Congress about implementing a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) system that would charge drivers for the number of miles they travel as a way to fund a large-scale infrastructure bill.

The incoming Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg floated the idea of a VMT system last week as the Biden administration prepares infrastructure legislation valued at about $1 trillion. 

"In the long term, we need to bear in mind also that as vehicles become more efficient and as we pursue electrification, sooner or later, there will be questions about whether the gas tax can be effective at all," Buttigieg said. 

Reed, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, was asked if he thinks taxes will go up to pay for a $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

"There's an appetite on the left for the fair-share argument and raising revenue, so I think that's going to be part of the conversation," Reed said during a discussion organized by the Economic Club of Washington. "The gas tax, I still don't see a gas tax increase on the horizon, maybe an inflationary raise there, that could be something that maybe gets folks together, but there's other revenue increases that are out there."

"You've got to think infrastructure over the horizon," Reed continued, "as we go to driverless cars, VMT, vehicle miles traveled, the whole electronic vehicle, how you're going to do a user fee based on that model. There's some legitimate conversations going on about how to take care of that revenue that could be included in the conversation." 

President Joe Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that includes $1,400 direct payments for Americans, more small business relief funds, additional federal unemployment insurance funding and other provisions. 

Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said infrastructure would likely be the next issue the Democratic-led Congress would tackle after passing another coronavirus stimulus bill first. 

"We've needed one for a very long time," Dingell said. "It will be a broad infrastructure bill. Not only — I'll quote my governor [Gretchen Wilson] — will it fix the damn roads, excuse my language, but that is her saying, and bridges, but we need broadband. I mean, COVID has just shined a light on the disparity of broadband in urban and rural areas. We need to fix our broken pipes and infrastructure for the environment."

Dingell added that the U.S. should "build out an electric vehicle infrastructure" and rebuild public schools as part of a large-scale infrastructure bill.

Reed predicted that a $1 trillion infrastructure bill would get "broad bipartisan support" in Congress."Learn a lesson from Republicans," he said. "We led with health care when President Trump came in; wrong path to take. Infrastructure heals the wounds, brings the country together, and the roadmap is already there." 

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