Tax drive could hurt rural motorists

Legislation to provide additional funding for Colorado’s roads and bridges is still being drafted, and all indications are it will include a fee for vehicle-miles traveled.

In other words, the more miles you drive, the more you’ll pay.

We expressed our concern to Gov. Bill Ritter this week that such a tax unfairly penalizes those who live in the most isolated parts of the state, people who already pay more for most everything and have to drive farther than city residents for almost all goods and services.

Ritter said he is well aware of that concern, and he is working with state lawmakers to alleviate that inequity as the transportation bill proceeds.

We hope that can be accomplished, but we’re skeptical. It’s unlikely that big-city residents will agree to a tiered system, whereby those living in rural areas pay less per mile than those in cities. Perhaps the fee can be capped at a relatively modest mileage total, but then it will effectively be a tax for driving in general, not one based on how much you drive.

We’re also not certain that the vehicle-mileage tax — even if it’s called a fee instead of a tax — can be implemented without a vote of Colorado citizens. If the state attempts to do so, it all but guarantees another costly court fight.

Ritter and state lawmakers face a difficult task finding additional money for transportation in the midst of a serious recession. A number of innovative ideas are being put forth by both Democrats and Republicans.

But as they look at revenue-raising ideas, they must be very careful not to adopt any
measures that amount to a tax for living in rural Colorado.


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