Tennessee could see per-mile driving tax under new pilot program proposal
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A new per-mile usage fee pilot program may be around the corner for Tennesseans.

It would charge drivers based on the number of miles they drive instead of taxing fuel.

But some who live in rural areas have fears they would pay more due to their commute, privacy concerns over the government tracking mileage, and administrative costs.

Two groups supporting this program will speak before the Tennessee General Assembly's Senate Transportation Committee.

The Reason Foundation and The Eastern Transportation Coalition will give presentations to the committee on Wednesday.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a per-mile usage fee pilot program.

The programs create mileage-based fees, otherwise known as Vehicle Miles Traveled fees.

The fees charge drivers based on the number of miles they drive instead of taxing fuel.

"It is a government overreach for sure," says Ronnie Gilliam.

Tennessee driver Ronnie Gilliam says his long hauls to work require driving hundreds of miles a week to rural areas.

"About 250 miles a day," says Gilliam.

And he doesn't think this program would help his bank account.

But, one group who supports the tax suggests all trips are created equal.

"Everyone should pay for the amount of road they use," says Baruch Feigenbaum.

Baruch Feigenbaum with The Reason Foundation says this pilot program is already implemented in 20 states.

"We do have evidence from the pilots that rural residents pay 10-20% less with a mileage based user fee than with a gas tax," says Feigenbaum.

Senator Becky Duncan Massey says she’s participated in one of these pilot programs.

"They have monitors in there that just look at the mileage and they have monitors with GPS, which is the one I did," says Senator Massey.

But Gilliam feels that having a monitor would be a breach in privacy.

"That's my personal car. They don't need to put a GPS on it for the government," says Gilliam.

If the program went forward, that would be a bill every 6 months or a year.

Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks says for members of his rural community, this could mean a change of scenery.

"Being charged on the number of miles you drive could definitively affect people making choices to work closer to home," says Brooks.

Brooks believes the program is a step in the right direction for addressing infrastructure safety.

"It is an incredibly important part of our municipality to have multimodal transportation options: walking, biking, cars and everything in between," says Brooks. "And I think that this discussion going forward is going to be part of the pilot programs of the future."

Brooks says that because Tennessee is a 'pay as you go' state on our roads and bridges...

"We've got to find more sustainable plans, pilot programs going forward."
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