As fuel efficiency rises, OC congressman looks to tax drivers, not gas

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The House of Representatives still hasn’t passed a multi-year transportation bill, but Congress did approve a 90-day extension to keep some projects going. One lawmaker from Orange County voted no as a protest over the way roads are funded.

Traditionally, bridge repair and highway construction is funded by a tax at the gasoline pump, but Republican Congressman John Campbell says that funding source is shrinking as cars get more fuel efficient.

"Revenue coming in via the gas tax is dropping," he says, because people are using fewer gallons of gas. "The tax is on the gallon of gas. It’s not on the price, it’s not a percent of the price, like most other taxes."

As a result, he says, we’re dipping into the general fund.

Campbell, who's owned several car dealerships, proposes a user fee, charging drivers per mile driven. That proposal is not included in the multi-year highway bills under consideration.

Several states, including Oregon, have looked at switching to user fees as an option for funding road repair.