Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Massachusetts “Explores” a New Tax – a VAT On Every Mile You Drive in the State! HB2660

New VMT (Tax on Miles Driven) May see Taxpayers Leave Massachusetts - Image:

Just when the residents of the Great Commonwealth of Massachusetts thought the last round of nineteen new taxes in 2010 (communications taxes, tobacco taxes, etc.) were the last to come down the pike, so to speak – for a while, the Massachusetts Legislature has come up with the latest way to enhance the budget – a tax per mile. According to USA Today, states are looking for new ways to procure income and replace the “obsolete” gas tax at the pump with a VMT (Vehicle Mileage Tax). The current Federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, with President Obama having ordered a 40% increase by 2016, states are looking for way to augment the old tax per mile at the pump and replace that pain in the pocket, with a tax per mile – however, figuring out the best way to “fleece” the taxpayer is proving sticky.

Massachusetts House Legislator Carl Sciortino, of Medford, (contact info here appears to solved the problem. His HB2660 - (Here) calls for, what else, a study: “The pilot shall include 5000-10,000 volunteers across the commonwealth, who will have on-board mileage-counting VMT equipment added to their vehicles.”

Seriously – and one will bet that will cost the taxpayer, first for the study, then to pay whoever is crazy enough to slap equipment to their vehicle which will tack every mile one drives, in order to add a .01 cent per mile tax per car, per mile driven.

After that bill, the taxpayers can be expected to pay for the equipment, and then be taxed every time they back out of their driveway. Of concern is those motorists who drive back and forth to New Hampshire (lower to no taxes) – staying over the border once the tax is in place, thus lowering the overall ability of the Commonwealth to collect – and leave the rest of the population hanging – a move of course, is not out of the question and might be considered smart at this point.

The Bill is now in Committee – where it has been sitting since February, perhaps waiting for the “pilot study” to find “volunteers” to participate in yet another tax adventure.

An online poll taken by Wicked Local, Sherborn MA indicates 85% of respondents prefer not to pay additional taxes via a VMT, 10% are more than willing .

The complete text of the bill on the VMT follows – from

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

Section 1: This bill is intended to build a safer, more modern transportation system across the entire commonwealth that enhances public transportation ridership, and spurs job creation and economic development. A better transportation system will encourage economic growth; promote fairness and equity; increase transportation choice and public transportation ridership; improve the health of Massachusetts residents; and reduce energy consumption, congestion, dependence on oil, and greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution.

Section 2: Ridership Increases

Section 11 of chapter 6C of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the third sentence the following:

“The plan shall ensure that statewide public transportation ridership increases at least 2 percent each year.”

Section 3: Registration Fees

Section 33 of chapter 90 of the General Laws as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended to require the registrar of motor vehicles to issue rules and regulations to increase registration fees for all motor vehicles by at least 10 dollars annually and 20 dollars biannually on all passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles (per 1,000 lbs), motorcycles, mopeds and antique motor vehicles no later than 60 days after this legislation is signed into law. The registrar of motor vehicles shall also be allowed to further raise any other passenger or commercial motor vehicle fees.

For all passenger vehicles required to register pursuant to chapter 90 whose value, as determined pursuant to chapter 60A, exceeds $35,000, the registrar shall collect an additional title fee at the time of registration equal to .1 percent of the value and additional registration renewal fee equal to .04 percent of the value for vehicles renewing annually and .08 percent of the value for vehicles renewing biannually. Every 5 years, the registrar of motor vehicles shall be allowed to raise the value amount of passenger vehicles from which this additional title fee and additional registration renewal fees are collected. Any such increase shall be proportional to the average increase of the value or passenger vehicles over the previous 5 years, as determined by Chapter 60A.

The increase in funds will be distributed according to section 34 of chapter 90 of the General Laws, into the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, established by section 2ZZZ of chapter 29 of the General Laws.

Section 4: Vehicle Miles Traveled Pilot Study

The federal Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), Public Law, 109-59, established the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission to examine the condition and future needs of the nation’s surface transportation system, as well as short- and long-term alternatives to the fuel tax. The search for alternative revenue is driven by the diminishing value of the fuel tax, declining supplies of conventional petroleum-based fuels, and increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles.

The commission issued its report in December 2007. Among its recommendation was consideration of mileage-based user fee, also referred to as a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee, which involves several technological and institutional challenges.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) shall conduct a pilot study analyzing the benefits and challenges of implementing a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee for all Massachusetts drivers. The purpose of the pilot study will be to study the feasibility of supplementing or partially replacing the gas tax with a mileage-based fee based on miles driven in Massachusetts, and collected at fueling stations or through some alternative means; and to study the feasibility of using a VMT fee to collect congestion charges.

The pilot shall include 5000-10,000 volunteers across the commonwealth, who will have on-board mileage-counting VMT equipment added to their vehicles. The pilot will assess the following issues related to implementing a VMT fee in Massachusetts:

(1) Methods for calculating mileage;

(2) Process for transmitting data to protect the integrity of the data and ensure drivers’ privacy;

(3) Types of equipment that may be required of the state and drivers to implement a VMT fee, including a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the equipment and contingencies in the event of equipment failure.

For a period of at least one year, volunteers will have their mileage, categorized location information, and timing of driving read at any participating service refueling stations or other locations. During an initial period of the study, the on-board VMT counter communicates with mileage reader but the volunteer will pay only the gas tax. During a final period of the study, volunteers will pay a road user fee or a combination of the gas tax and the road user fee.

The final pilot study and review by MassDOT shall fully examine alternative ways in which a VMT fee program could be implemented in Massachusetts, including charging varying mileage fees depending on the time and type of road, an appropriate rate-per-mile for vehicles that achieve a certain fuel efficiency, for motorists that avoid rush hour zones, for those participating in other environmentally-friendly transportation situations like car-shares, or for low-income drivers without a transit alternative; provide recommendations for implementation of a fully-implemented VMT fee program that minimizes confusion and inconvenience to drivers while ensuring their privacy; and propose guidelines for use and implementation, and shall also analyze and test other potential alternatives or supplements to the gas tax, including open road tolling.

MassDOT shall present its finding and recommendations for a fully-implemented VMT program to the Joint Committee on Transportation within two years from the adoption of this legislation.”

There’s more in the Bill – just as enlightening – (Hike by $20 on Vehicle Registration Fees) but for now the focus should be on the VMT and the possible implementation of a Tax per Mile on one’s vehicle.

Completely apoplectic about the possibility: WRKO’s/Boston Herald’s, Howie Carr – on the subject an article entitled ”Highway to Hell – pay per mile tax is latest cash grab from green pols”

Frankly, this is worse than the Tax on Dogs (oops – Fee), there just never seems to be enough to cover all the fraud and abuse expense associated with “entitlement programs” in MA – although one must credit the Legislature for removing the ability of EBT cards to be used to procure a tattoo.


Anonymous said...

This tax will be fine for the rich like Kerry but for the poor and middle class it will have a devastaing affect on their quality of life. If they are lucky enough to have a job or have to drive their child to school and activities it will cost them more to get there. This tax wont affect the mobility of the rich. They'll still have a woneful life. No more weekend trips. It will hurt hotel,motels,restaurants, parks, anywhere someone has to drive to.
Oh well,the people elected their rulers (and that's what politicians tink they are) and get what they deserve.

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Anonymous said...

1. Can we be sure the gas tax will be reduced?

2. Why would there be a need for GPS tracking when every vehicle in Mass requires a yearly inspection and the mileage is already recorded during the inspection?

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