State transportation commission votes to recommend phased-in pay-per-mile tax, sometime down the road.

The state transportation commission voted to recommend that the Legislature move toward a pay-per-mile tax. Sometime. The News Tribune Reports,

On Tuesday, the commission made its recommendations to the Legislature. As expected, the major one is for lawmakers next year to consider phasing in a pay-per-mile tax to replace the state gas tax, which is 49.4 cents per gallon. The idea is that a new source of revenue is needed because the state’s gas tax — which is used to fund roads and bridges — is being eroded by increasingly more fuel-efficient cars and electric vehicles.

The commission did not recommend a time line for replacing the gas tax with a pay-per-mile tax. But the commission said it should not happen for at least 10 years and likely not for several decades.

So, not a quick solution. The Seattle Times writes,

Discussion of a per-mile tax has been underway for years as vehicles get more fuel-efficient and more drivers switch to electric cars. In coming years, the state expects gas-tax revenues to increase at a significantly slower rate than road construction costs.

Oregon already has an optional per-mile tax, and Utah plans to offer electric- and hybrid-vehicle owners the option to pay a similar charge instead of annual fees next year. Washington charges electric and hybrid-car owners annual fees in lieu of gas taxes.

Commission members emphasize that a per-mile tax in Washington is meant to be a replacement for the gas tax, not an additional tax. State lawmakers will ultimately decide whether to create the charge. Because of bonds already issued against gas-tax dollars, privacy questions and other concerns, a full transition away from the gas tax would likely take 10 years or longer.

There was discussion of whether the per-mile tax should also restricted to highway uses, as the gas tax is under the 18th amendment to the state constitution. Transit advocates and others urge more funding flexibility. Also,

Transportation Choices Coalition and other groups also argue a per-mile charge should be structured as a progressive tax that doesn’t unfairly burden people with low incomes.

Earlier, we wrote of editorial support for the pay-per-mile tax here and here. A long-term solution to the challenges of sustainable and adequate funding for transportation is an imperative. Yesterday’s vote advances the necessary discussion.