The McDonnell Administration and our legislators have done a commendable job of balancing the budget without raising taxes, setting the stage for future economic growth.
However, the suggestion that Virginia install toll plazas on I-95 entering and exiting the state is a misguided idea for a number of reasons. From a financial and environmental standpoint, you have the time and energy expended to build the toll plazas and millions of dollars spent to impede the flow of people and commerce. You have the hiring of hundreds of state employees to man the booths 24 hours a day along with their infamous state pensions and all of the fuel required to get them to and from the job. The huge amount of fuel wasted each day as motorists brake and then accelerate back to speed, along with the additional accidents caused by the obstruction to the flow of traffic and the attending traffic officers is all a total unnecessary financial and environmental burden.
It seems inconsistent having just balanced the budget through reductions in spending that we now want to abandon that plan and increase the tax burden on those who travel I-95! I know the sales pitch is that the tax will be paid by the user, most of whom we expect to be from out of state, but having just returned from a road trip from Richmond to San Diego, California and back, never once slowing to pay a toll, it appears to me that highway tolls are simply un-American! One of the great joys of being an American is the realization that you can get in the car and go! Anywhere!
Do we really think that we will be the only state to implement tolls at our borders? If we seek to tax out-of-state travelers why should other states not do the same? We passed through 15 states on our trip, potentially 30 toll booths and 30 toll fees. Tolls are simply a very inefficient and burdensome way to collect revenue.
The best solution is to transfer the cost of highway maintenance from existing revenue sources and add it to the gas and diesel tax currently collected at the pump. This should be a revenue neutral transfer, but once in place, the amount of tax per gallon should be expressed as a percentage of the total cost per gallon. Much of the cost of building and maintaining highways is directly related to the cost of petroleum, so as petroleum costs rise, so will the revenue generated by the gas tax. With China, Brazil and India all developing rapidly, the cost of petroleum is poised to increase as soon as the world economy recovers from overdosing on debt.
With this approach, there is absolutely no increased cost to collect the revenue. The tax is placed on the user and will have a direct affect on an individual’s decision when they choose a vehicle. We are currently subsidizing the cost of transportation with a number of disconnected revenue sources which serve to mask the true cost of highway travel.
Place the cost of transportation on those using the roads and burning our limited supply of petroleum, so they can choose how to most efficiently get from point A to point B.
Todd Vander Pol