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2.17.23 – KSLA

Louisiana is eyeing a pilot program that would charge drivers a mileage fee as a way to replace or augment the gasoline tax. Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson unveiled the idea during the Louisiana Legislature’s Electric Vehicle Task Force meeting Wednesday.

Wilson, who announced his retirement later in the day, told lawmakers his department is looking into pilot programs that use technology to track how many miles and on what roads a specific vehicle travels. The data is then used to calculate precisely how much a driver should pay in taxes for transportation infrastructure. 

The technology comes in several forms, Wilson said. Some programs use a cell phone app while others rely on internal vehicle data or other devices. The pilot program would likely start with DOTD and other state-owned vehicles before being opened to the general public, he said. 

Lawmakers seem receptive to the idea as they search for solutions to replace dwindling fuel tax revenue that’s the result of a growing number of electric vehicles and increasingly efficient gasoline vehicles on Louisiana’s roadways.

The Legislative Auditor’s Office issued a report Wednesday that said the state would need to charge drivers a $116 annual fee for every gasoline vehicle and a $271 fee for every electric vehicle to cover the current $18.8 billion backlog in highway and bridge needs. 

“It’s not necessarily a fiscal cliff, but we’re walking slowly towards the sea and we can’t swim,” said Sen. Patrick McMath, R-Covington. “We’ve got to address this in some shape, form or fashion.”

Last year, legislators enacted new annual fees of $60 for every hybrid vehicle and $110 for electric vehicles registered in the state. 

Louisiana is not alone in facing the problem. Oregon has implemented a similar program in which the state waives vehicle registration fees, which are often hundreds of dollars, in exchange for participants enrolling in the program that charges 1.9 cents per mile.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.