As drivers use less gas, Florida considers gas-tax replacements

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As the public buys more fuel-efficient vehicles and markets for electric and hybrid cars continue to grow, a pair of trends seem to bode well for the environment along with drivers’ wallets.

Despite the growth, the state of Florida is concerned about the impact of these trends on its shrinking Transportation Trust Fund, which gets its money from the tax paid-per-gallon of gas purchased by drivers. The money from that fund is then used to pay for highway infrastructure improvements.

“The increase in the number of fuel-efficient vehicles has just exploded,” said Mark Reichert, the assistant executive director of the Florida Transportation Commission. “Even though people are starting to drive more, they’re trading in their vehicles that got say, 15 to 20 miles to the gallon, for vehicles that get anywhere from 20 to 50 miles per gallon now.”

The less gas pumped, the less money flowing to the Transportation Trust Fund. The State needs to make a change; a change that is fair to everyone.

One option gaining momentum is a mileage-based user fee. The more you drive, the more you pay. Reporting mileage could be as simple as reporting your odometer reading when you renew your tags. “Or it could be something as sophisticated as … a GPS system in your vehicle,” Reichert said.

Such a proposal is sure to raise privacy concerns among drivers. Reichert said technology exists to help mitigate those concerns, but understands the issue is sensitive.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.