OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The state gas tax may one day be a thing of the past with a "pay-per-mile" replacement. The reason is gas is being used less and less, leading to a drop in gas tax income.
Cars are becoming more fuel efficient. Some cars such as hybrids don't need much, if any gas. All-electric cars don't need any gas at all. The state Transportation Commission is concerned the gas tax is diminishing as a major source of funding for the state's transportation system.
The commission is going to do a year-long pilot test with 2,000 volunteer drivers to see if the "road usage charge" is a viable option.
"We're looking at it because we have a looming revenue problem," said Commission Executive Director Reema Griffith.
Libertarian Party members in the crowd said the state first needs to use the current dollars better.
"If they start using their money wisely then we might actually trust them," Raylene Scott said.
Dan Luce, a gas customer, agreed: "I think there's a lot of money being put into the system right that just isn't being handled wisely."
Some drivers will take some convincing. Others are on board.
"What you're doing is encouraging people to have more gas-efficient cars which would reduce emissions," said Nancy Bacon. "I'm all for things that help protect the environment."
The system of tracking involves GPS and cell phone apps. That worries Libertarian James Holcomb.
"There's definitely a privacy issue of them tracking where you're going and how many miles you're going," Holcomb said. "Transportation commission members were told the GPS devices and cell phone apps won't track 'where' you go, just how many miles."
The Libertarian party members worry this is a further attack on those who live away from major cities who have to commute long distances and can least afford it.
"Then they instead, not just tax them on the gas, but now we're taxing them on the drive to work to survive for their families," Scott said. "This is a problem."
The pilot project runs all next year with a report to the legislature in 2020 for a decision on whether the pay per mile idea is a go.
"If it's not the road charge, there's got to be some replacement for the gas tax," Griffith warned.
The website for registering as a volunteer is Waroadusagecharge.org.