Daily Sun News Editorial

New tax idea will hurt rural motorists


Yesterday, the state Transportation Commission began recruiting for volunteers to drive its effort to create a new tax on motorists. The agency is seeking 2,000 test drivers for a pilot program designed to tax motorists on the number of miles driven annually.

Officials say the reason a new tax is needed is because of increasing gas-powered vehicle efficiencies, electric and hybrid vehicle sales and increasing costs for ferries, roads and bridges.

But this new tax plan is only good for Western Washington, where workers can afford hybrid and electric vehicles, where they can afford to take a ferry to work daily, and where they do not have to commute dozens and dozens of miles to work.

Before test drivers even hit the road, we already know such a tax is bad news for Eastern Washington motorists, businesses, communities and the overall economy. If the project gives way to a new tax, farmers, ranchers and ruralites will end up paying a higher cost than westsiders, who should be paying more.

The commission hopes the pilot project will show it works for all. But here’s a case where a one-size tax doesn’t fit all, and certainly doesn’t fit Eastern Washington.

On this side of the state, many rural residents live on minimum wage and commute 20, 30 or more miles to work daily. There are few hybrid and even fewer electric vehicles on our roads. As a result, a pay-per-mile system will only increase the already heavy tax burden on ruralites.

Rather than developing a new tax to cover the ever-increasing costs of major transportation projects — which are primarily west of the Cascades — we’d rather see the commission reign in transportation spending. Get rid of the use-it-or-lose-it mentality that’s given rise to unnecessary roundabouts and unnecessary guardrails on primitive roads.

The answer to transportation funding shortfalls isn’t development of a new tax base, it’s cost control.


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