If you drive more you will pay more
This could mean paying an annual fee based on your odometer reading or carrying a transponder that tracks your miles in real time.
This story is part of the Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identifying solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
You could pay less at the pump as Utah looks to replace its gas tax, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will cost you less to drive.
Hybrid and electric vehicles pay a fixed fee on registration because they do not pay as much – or not at all – the gasoline tax which supports the state’s transportation budget, but other vehicles at higher fuel efficient also pay less tax on gasoline than those who steers gas.
“We want them to pay their share of the cost of road maintenance,” Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, said of electric vehicle owners.
To make up the difference between taxes paid and fundraising based on who uses the state’s roads the most, the Department of Transportation is considering implementing a road user charge. Under plans presented to the Legislative Assembly’s interim transport committee on Wednesday, the state would charge drivers a fee of pennies per mile traveled.
Supporters see it as a fair way to increase the road budget as more motorists and manufacturers seek to phase out gasoline-powered cars.
Utah and federal gasoline taxes make up about half of the state’s transportation budget, according to UDOT. But that tax has lost more than half of its purchasing power over the past 15 years as vehicles go farther and farther on a gallon of gasoline.
UDOT explored two options for a per mile charge: one would require an annual odometer reading at the time of registration; the other would use a transponder to record kilometers traveled in real time.
With manual reading, vehicle owners would pay a lump sum each year. The transponder could allow monthly payments.
The Wasatch Front Regional Council came out in favor of the transponder option because, as the UDOT report notes, it would allow the state to include future mileage charge options, such as the use of lanes for multiple occupancy vehicles or additional charges for driving during peak hours.
“It gives us the flexibility to use these approaches to work better for Utah,” said Julie Bjornstad, the council’s senior transportation planner.
Such a royalty is not unique. Oregon and Virginia have programs in place and many other states are exploring this option. In fact, some Utahns are already paying the per mile charge as part of a pilot program.
Owners of hybrid and electric vehicles who would otherwise have had to pay an annual fee of $ 20 to $ 120 when registering had the option, starting last year, to pay 1.5 cents per mile traveled up to at the cost of fixed costs.
About 3,600 vehicles chose to test the transponder program in hopes of saving some money, although program manager Tiffany Pocock said most drivers hit the cap during the first year.
About 2.4% of vehicles registered in Utah are hybrid or electric, according to a state report. Nationally, more than a quarter of vehicle purchases by 2030 will be hybrid or electric, according to consulting firm Deloitte.
“That’s a small proportion of all vehicles,” Utah lawmakers Andy Yewdell, policy analyst for the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, told Utah lawmakers, “but it’s growing rapidly.”
If lawmakers approve either of the UDOT’s proposals, the state will begin requiring registration of hybrid and electric vehicles in 2024 and expand the requirement to all vehicles by 2031.
Senator Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, who co-chairs the interim transport committee with Christofferson, said the group will meet at least twice before a bill is created.
The state is still expected to make decisions on how to implement the plan, such as setting privacy rules for the data collected, whether to use transponders rather than an annual odometer reading, and whether to use transponders instead of an annual odometer reading. must include miles driven out of state.
Those details aside, Christofferson said, an alternative to the gasoline tax is needed to continue funding the transportation budget.
“We’re going to have to figure that out and find something,” he said. “I think the longer we wait, the harder it will be.”