Gasoline Tax

Lately folks are worried about how to fund the roads with electric vehicles. Of course, there are very few EVs on the road… yet. They’re talking about some onerous taxes with privacy implications. Tax mileage, so you would have to take your car to the DMV every year, or worse, attach a device that always lets the state and federal government know where you are. Law enforcement and the NSA love that idea.
But I say do away with road taxes altogether. Before the 20th century, neither the state nor federal governments built roads. Many of the larger cities did, but not states; roads aren’t necessary for horses and wagons. The first drivers of autos bought gasoline in five gallon cans from hardware stores.
By the 1920s states had started paving roads, and in 1919 Oregon instituted the first gasoline tax, one cent per gallon. In 1919, few people had autos and most goods were still transported by water, rail, and horse drawn wagons. It made perfect sense that those who needed roads should pay for them; why should horse owners, whose steeds were expensive enough, have to pay to provide roads for the rich with cars? In Vachel Lindsay’s 1920 book The Golden Book of Springfield about the year 2018, cars and airplanes were still toys for the rich.
But the real 2018 was nothing like Lindsay’s 2018. Today, horses are toys for the rich, and cars, buses, and trucks haul the goods and people. Everyone needs the roads and highways today. What’s more, commerce does almost all damage to roads, why should automobile drivers have to pay for them?
The states and the federal government should just let gas taxes slide, and fix the roads with the same funds used to fund everything else. Just keep the gas tax to nudge people towards electric vehicles. Gasoline and its exhaust stinks, especially with a poorly tuned engine. The sooner gasoline and diesel are gone, the better.

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