Don't take the easy way out on gas tax
State Rep. Tom Morrison cited a number of facts in his Dec. 11 letter to justify changing the tax formula for highway infrastructure funding. I agree with some of them, such as charging the same license plate fees for electric vehicles as for regular cars. Switching from a gasoline tax to a mileage tax, however, makes me uncomfortable. Either implementation of such a tax would have to rely on an inherently imperfect "honor system," or the costly and logistically challenging installation of mileage monitors in all Illinois vehicles. It would also fail to account for the thousands of out of state vehicles that traverse our highways. Further, based on the small number of electric cars in Illinois, the additional revenue generated would fall far short of the funding needed to fix and maintain our roads.
What bothers me more is the establishment of a disincentive for citizens to buy more costly eco-friendly vehicles. Rep. Morrison is a Republican who consistently tows the ultraconservative party line, which includes climate change denial. Most of the rest of the world believes climate change and mankind's contribution to it are real however, and the worldwide trend is toward eco-friendly vehicles. Removing an incentive for Illinoisans to bear the added expense of buying these cars would ultimately be bad for the environment and contribute further to America's competitive decline in the growing market sector of environmentally oriented industries.
It's understandable that legislators are averse to enacting new taxes that could create a voter backlash. As a result, they take the easy way out and target a relatively small number of citizens with higher taxes. Let's not scapegoat owners of electric cars for Illinois' highway maintenance woes. Instead, let's continue to find practical ways to accelerate the trend away from polluting to non-polluting cars.