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Documents Show Elected Leaders Support the Move to a Vehicle Mileage Tax

Posted on April 17, 2016

Documents Show Elected Leaders Support the Move to a Vehicle Mileage Tax

Tallahassee Reports has learned that local elected leaders have been supporting a move to tax vehicle miles traveled by individuals for a number of years.

This is despite the recent comments by some local elected officials that implied taxing individuals on miles traveled in their cars was not part of a proposed study slated to look at creating a mobility fee.

The comments were made after TR published a story about the proposed mobility fee study. The City and County voted to move forward with the study.

The support for the mileage fee is through an important, but low profile group called the Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Council (MPOAC).

MPOAC is a statewide transportation planning and policy organization created by the Florida Legislature pursuant to Section 339.175(11), Florida Statutes. The organization is made up of a Governing Board (27 members) consisting of local elected officials from each of the MPOs.

One of the purposes of the MPOAC is to develop legislative priorities that are supported by the MPO’s.

In fact, on October 16, 2003, the MPOAC Governing Board approved a motion to annually request that each MPO in the state contribute $500 or more of non-federal local funds to the MPOAC to support and fund legislative advocacy.

The MPO for Tallahassee region is called the Capital Region Transportation Plannning Agency (CRTPA). Current members from Leon County include County Commissioners Dozier, Dailey, Proctor, Sauls, Desloge, Maddox and Lindley and City Commissioners Maddox, Richardson and Miller.

City Commissioner Nancy Miller, who called TR’s report “misinformation”, served as Chairman of the MPO during 2013.

Beginning in 2013, MPOAC began pushing as its number one priority the development of a “plan to move Florida toward a Mileage Based User Fee in lieu of the traditional fuel tax.”

The issue has remained the number one priority for the last four legislative sessions. During this time the language has changed, but the intent has remained the same.

The latest version asks the legislature to require the “Florida Department of Transportation to develop a plan and conduct one or more pilot tests to move Florida toward a Mileage Based User Fee, which protects individual privacy, in lieu of the traditional fuel tax.”

In fact, Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox, as the representative from the Tallahassee MPO, voted for the 2016 legislative priorities which included the above language. You can view minutes of the meeting here.

TR researched local media outlets and could find no articles written about our region’s support for a fee or tax on vehicle miles traveled by individuals.

TR will seek to determine which  CRTPA members supported or voiced concerns about the move to a mileage based user fee.

28 Responses to Documents Show Elected Leaders Support the Move to a Vehicle Mileage Tax

  1. I AM OUT OF HERE Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Now we know why they wanted to raise taxes last year, to fund studies like this. My question is who is getting paid to do these studies and how much is being funneled back into to campaigns of the local politicians? Yes, I know how it works.

    If you do not think so, there is a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you.

  2. Margie Johnson Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 7:45 am

    This is one of the most stupid things I have heard!! We don’t need more taxes! Who and what organization would profit fom this tax?

  3. Mary Ann Eppinger Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 8:03 am

    It seems as though the city leaders have never heard of a tax they did not approve of !! This is no surprise.

  4. Matt Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Typical tax and spend Democrats.

  5. Franklin Thompson Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 8:45 am

    I’m not sure how Nancy Miller thinks Tallahassee Reports’ original article was misinformation. It was taken from the City Commissions’ meeting agenda.

  6. Gas Hawg! Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 9:00 am

    I love the idea of a miles traveled tax!
    No more taxes on fuel consumption….
    I like having my 8 MPG road tank but was considering something more efficient.
    Now I can wait for taxes to shift to miles traveled instead of fuel consumed.
    WooHoo!

    • Preston Scott

      Preston Scott Reply

      April 18, 2016 at 7:26 pm

      You hope. Look, it’s an interesting debate. I just want to see a government entity get rid of a tax. Example: The County raised the bed tax (hotels) in order to fund the Performing Arts Center. The PAC died, but has the tax? Nope. And they won’t. By comparison the bed tax is tiny compared to the cash cow the gas tax is, even with reduced numbers. Folks, listen…there is PLENTY of money in all levels of government. The issue has always been, and will continue to be, what the money is spent on. Please remember: using the widely accepted multiplier effect every dollar taken by government is eight dollars of impact removed from the local economy. There needs to be some level of tax – what the City and County are doing with taxes and fees is killing the private sector.

  7. JfromJupiter Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 9:07 am

    First, I would like some additional information regarding what “misinformation” TR reported according to Nancy Miller. That’s not rhetorical. Second, if the purpose of the “plan to move Florida toward a Mileage Based User Fee in lieu of the traditional fuel tax” is what they are attempting to accomplish, then where does MPOAC propose to make-up for the lost fuel tax revenue generated from non-Florida residents visiting or passing through the state? I have a suspicion that if in fact this Mileage Based User Fee becomes a reality, they at some point will realize that the fees do not cover the lost revenue generated when the fuel tax was in place. The result is that we may end up with 1.) a reinstitution of the fuel tax as well as the Mileage Based User Fee, or 2.) an increase in the Mileage Based User Fee somewhere down the road.

    I agree with Matt’s comment, “Typical tax an spend Democrats.” I would just say that I have lived here for 4 years, own a home here, and I am a democrat. Despite my party affiliation, I don’t believe in the tax and spend policy. As a democrat, I can honestly say that this has been what I consider one of the most irresponsible and thoughtless administrations I have witnessed.

  8. Smells like kickbacks Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Just to add a little to JfromJupiter’s point, I read up on the Oregon program after reading the first TR article. It was no big shock to me, but according to reports I found with a quick google search, the administrative cost of a fuel tax is about 0.6% or just over half a cent per dollar collected. The vendor share for the VMT scheme in Oregon is approximately 40%, and though I could not find anywhere that said for sure, it was represented as the payment to the payment and tracking vendors, meaning it was not inclusive of municipal administrative costs (auditing, contract management, negotiation, etc). So let’s all pretend for a moment that we live in a fantasy world where tracking our mileage doesn’t violate multiple sections of the Bill of Rights, and what we end up with is the municipality getting maybe 55 cents per tax dollar and massive payments to vendors, whereas with gas tax we’re getting more than 99 cents per tax dollar collected (according to the Oregon study). So step back and compare the two, and Constitutional issues aside, there are two big differences: first the VMT far less revenue goes to your city or county per tax dollar collected, and second and most significantly, almost half would go out to vendors meaning massive privatized profits that serve neither the county/city nor its citizens. So why then, do you suppose, any politician would ever even consider supporting such a thing?

  9. Rosemary N. Palmer Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Changing the way we fund highways makes sense if we are in the group who want to reduce and/or limit use of fossil fuels. Currently highways are funded through taxing fossil fuels. That means that those who use alternative fuels for their vehicles get to drive the freeways without paying for their use. Since generally citizens believe that all its users (even those who can afford and like the new kinds of vehicles)should pay for our vehicle infrastructure, a new way of funding highways using mileage makes sense.

    The problem seems to be that we are not hearing this will be INSTEAD of gas tax, NOT in addition to gas tax. (To be fair, it almost has to start out in addition to because otherwise it will be hard to figure out its actual impact: computer modeling only goes so far.)

  10. Hank Gilbert Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Enough already!!! It seems all they’re interested in is taxing us more and more. I own a home, small business and love living in Tallahassee, but this has to stop. Maybe it’s time the city leaders/commissioners are voted out as well as the Mayor. I’d like elected officials to represent us instead of their own interests.

    • BEC Reply

      April 18, 2016 at 10:38 am

      “Maybe it’s time the city leaders/commissioners are voted out as well as the Mayor”

      Not maybe. Its a definite HELL YES!!

  11. Jane Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 9:54 am

    City Commissioner Nancy Miller, who called TR’s report “misinformation”, served as Chairman of the MPO during 2013.

    It was a misunderstanding when the taxpayers were outraged about ObamaCare. As Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass it so that we know what’s in it”. Taxpayers knew what was in it before it passed and were against it.

    The taxpayers were against TARP, but Hank Paulson said that if it doesn’t pass, the whole economy blows up. The banks got richer.

    Taxpayers were against the abolishment of usuary laws in the 70s. For those of you too young to know, Florida usuary laws capped the interest rate that could be charged to Florida citizens to 12%. Remember that when you are paying 24% interest on you credit card in a 1/2% interest rate world.

    Taxpayers were pissed when the Florida legislators passed the law allowing banks to circumvent the recording of deeds (and fees) when mortgages were transferred in the course of a “business deal”. As a result, our chain of title for real property has become blurred, as those records are no longer kept at the local government level. Plus, the loss of those fees were transferred from the big bank mega-corporations to the back of the Florida citizens with increases in local Court fees.

    Leon County citizens voted no on the performing art center, not once, but several times. And the politicians response was that, “they just didn’t spend enough money informing the residents about the benefits of a performing arts center.”

    If politicians listened to taxpayers as much as they listened to special interest groups and corporations, we, the taxpayers would not be mad right now.

  12. Laura Forster Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 10:21 am

    The politicians are supporting this because they know the vendors, have vested interest in the vendors, etc. Just like when they open up land, buy it personally, and then have the govt. buy it back from them where they put a road on it that is paid by the taxpayer. My husband and I will move from Tallahassee if they pass this mileage tax. I think many business’ will suffer greatly and leave as well. We live 12 miles out from the center of town we would be punished just because we live outside of town. We already pay 10% on propane, crappy water service fees, no cable, and now this. Wow, this will be great for the real estate market out here. I better put my house up for sale now.

  13. Eric Flament Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I don’t see any link between a tax on drivers and this mobility fee. A one time ‘mobility’ fee as an alternative to the ‘concurrency/transportation impact’ fee on developers is a completely separate thing from a yearly miles-traveled tax as an alternative to the gas tax on drivers. The study approved by the county and city are mainly focused on the former concept. If Maddox is on a board that supports the latter, completely different other thing, why is that relevant? Neither concept is an increase in taxes. Besides, it makes sense that taxes should be proportional to the things they pay for so neither thing is absurd to me anyway. With respect to the idea of using a VMT tax rather than gas tax: why shouldn’t electric cars pay the same taxes as gasoline cars? Here’s the agenda item so that maybe other commenters can help me figure out what I’m missing: http://www.boarddocs.com/fla/talgov/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=A89PWY59D984 … other than this, keep up the good work!

    • Mark Cann Reply

      April 18, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      Eric – thanks for posting the link; I read it and am now more informed. I also want to say my response here is meant as intelligent debate and not as rebuttal or argument. I’m literally trying to answer your questions, not to argue.

      I guess what we’re concerned with is the part where they say “mobility fee based on vehicle miles traveled” and then say this approach would be compatible with the activity center goals set forth in the joint plan…and then almost everything below that in the document. That is in the timeline starting around 2009/2010. I see no mention of any mobility fee being “one time” and specifically they do say based on VMT, or vehicle miles traveled, which is a recurring tax per mile driven.

      Aside from creating a gargantuan extra set of accounts payable (vendors) that would need to be offset by this new tax before the city or county would even start to break even over the current fuel tax, a VMT based ‘mobility fee’ would effectively be a tax or abrogation on a Constitutional Right.
      There is a ton of case law that says travelling on public roads and highways is an inalienable constitutional right, so a VMT tax is a per-use pay-as-you-go fee on using said Right, and thus problematic. I’m not an attorney, but I don’t see the legal difference between a vehicle miles traveled tax on my right to travel and a per-word-spoken based ‘expression fee’ on my freedom of speech or a per person ‘population density fee’ on our right to assemble. It doesn’t matter what buzz word they use or for what manufactured purpose; it’s a tax on exercising your rights.

      The existing
      fuel tax, on the other hand, is a sales tax on a commodity. It holds legal because I can run my car on something else, and because it’s not directly related to or required for my freedom to travel (that is, I can travel on public roads and highways without gas, so a fuel surcharge does not tax or prohibit my exercising my right). A VMT directly taxes my exercising my rights, and if there are any penalties for refusing to pay such tax or ‘mobility fee’ then they additionally attempt to convert the exercise of a protected right in to a crime, which is also specifically outlawed as unconstitutional over and over again in case law going back as far as 200 years and remaining the case in more recent court rulings. The ACLU already involved themselves in Oregon with similar and additional arguments against their VMT tax, and even the volunteer basis program had to be modified to include an option for a “flat rate alternative tax” for people who didn’t want to pay mileage based fees.

      The politicians are
      saying we don’t have money for roads when they waste tens of millions of dollars on bridges and parks and then propose that the way to make up for this manufactured deficit is charging citizens for exercising their protected rights, in a way that furthers the deficit with new vendor bills to pay. I find it extremely troubling that they would give it more than one serious discussion, much less spend over a quarter of million dollars of all this money they don’t have studying how they might best force it on their constituents.

      “The Right of the Citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, either by horse drawn carriage or by automobile, is not a mere privilege which a city can prohibit or permit at will, but a common Right which he has under the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

      Thompson vs. Smith, 154 SE 579

      • Eric Flament Reply

        April 18, 2016 at 7:04 pm

        Lots of other counties have looked into a mobility fee opposed to an impact fee. Here is Pasco’s analysis: http://www.polk-county.net/eAgenda/2012/January%2010,%202012%20Regular%20BoCC%20meeting%20on%20Tuesday,%20January%2010,%202012/D14BC217-50CD-4426-A141-1B337DC7DD22.pdf. It is a one time fee on development. If you watch the city’s comments for a couple minutes, it becomes clear that mobility is better than impact: https://youtu.be/WoNtDSrFyKA?t=1h41m42s. With an impact/concurrency fee, developers will scale down just below the limit of expanding roads and will develop far out of town, like Walmart has, which is expensive to service with police/fire/etc.

        So we can have an impact vs mobility fee argument, OR we can have a gas vs vmt tax argument, OR we can talk about the constitutionality of a vmt tax, OR we can talk about getting rid of all fees and taxes by privatizing all the roads, but they are completely separate things and only the first one has anything to do with what was discussed by the city on April 13th. And none of these taxes or fees are necessarily an increase. They are attempts to develop ways to charge the same amount of money for roads without loopholes or weird side-effects. The comment section on this and the previous article illustrate that readers and possibly the authors don’t understand this.

        • Mark Cann Reply

          April 19, 2016 at 9:23 am

          Bravo! Thanks for the additional information. Tallahassee / Leon County needs to put out less ambiguous information. It’s crystal clear in the Pasco document that is it indeed as you describe. The Commission meeting comments seem concurrent with that in this area. I don’t live in the city so I do not follow city government much, but I am pleased to see Scott Maddox voicing objection to the cost of the study.

          I realize it was just an agenda that I read and that’s just an abstract, but it is extremely ambiguous that they first mention mobility fee as a vehicle miles traveled basis and do not mention in later items that they are using the same term to describe something very different, if it is in fact a developer only fee, which the comments in the meeting seem to indicate.

          After watching the meeting and further research, it does seem to be the case that they’re trying to break up a concurrency fee in to what will probably eventually become ala carte fees for those things currently covered by concurrency, apparently not very well. We will have to wait for more information on this one to come out from the commission, but it does certainly seem to have been misinterpreted by the article and readers, unless there is more information out there that contradicts this actually being a development fee.

          Thanks again for the additional info.

          • From the cheap seats

            April 19, 2016 at 9:16 pm

            Mssrs. Flament & Cann –
            Thank you for a very enlightened and intellectual discussion. I appreciate your presentation of the core facts, as this is a complex issue at a number if levels. It’s worthy of consideration as it looks to be a move toward a truer consumption based assessment.

  14. Beth Overholt Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Isn’t Blueprint money funded from the gas tax? We were told that a third of that money comes from out of town people using our roads. Something isn’t quite right here.
    There are some consequences for the MVT. I will choose to shop via the internet. That will hurt small businesses. Do you think that restaurants and festivals will see a drop in people visiting. It would be easier to move to Jefferson County with less taxes.

  15. John C. Reply

    April 20, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    I think this needs to be a line in the sand issue and I would like to see citizens coming together to oppose it. If nothing else, the current election cycle shows that all types of everyday people are not happy with the way things are going nationwide. The power that both dysfunctional parties represent starts at a local level.

    The current strategy has been to get citizens fighting with each other over more petty issues while the machine rolls on, transforming OUR country and communities into something our great-grandparents would hardly recognize, like driving around with tax monitors in our cars. Money and influence is pumped into to the local realm to shape local policy, like this ludicrous tax, which are often just ploys to pump money later out of the same local economies (see “smells like kickbacks” excellent comment). Both parties do it, they just do it in different ways. Career politicians who profit from this system at the expense of their neighbors should be denied local office and influence in my opinion. Easier said than done of course. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  16. MT Reply

    April 20, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    I think Nancy Miller and some of the other commissioners have some splaining to do. These things are a lot harder to change once they’re implemented. You go TR. Keep up the good work. You’re all we have.

    • george fergusson Reply

      April 21, 2016 at 7:58 am

      When the lights come on, the cockroaches scurry. Florida’s roads and just about everything else are substantially funded by the “generousity” of millions of tourists. I can not imagine letting them off the hook by installing a GPS in my Jeep. I was looking for a place to live when I moved to Tallahassee and I still have my road maps.

  17. M Wilson Reply

    April 21, 2016 at 8:40 am

    Hillsborough County is already headed there. This was in a New Update from Sterns Weaver Miller:
    “The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners looks to be set to adopt a Mobility Fee Ordinance on April 26. Meanwhile, details are still emerging about the “grandfathering” of existing and ongoing projects and future projects under contract…the proposed fee increases of three to ten times compared to the existing impact fee, the fee’s potential impacts at a time when we are seeing reports of increased development costs, and an overview of the structure of the draft Ordinance.

    Details are at: http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1116637108946&ca=2086faea-27fa-4611-a369-a041d11ce3db

  18. phil Reply

    April 23, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    So they can raise taxes from all of us driving cars to spend it on bike lanes and sidewalks. No real road improvements are planned for the next 20 years.

  19. Hope Reply

    April 26, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Well, the voters made their choices so they get what they voted for…and for those who did not vote thanks a lot!

  20. phil Reply

    May 1, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    Oh, and they don’t do computer modeling in Tallahssee. Everyone else does. Our model hasn’t even been updated with the 2010 Census info. How incompetent can they be. We all are going to have to walk to work and ride bikes to work. Meanwhile the rest are in bumper to bumper traffic on our two lanes roads, polluting the air, killing the tree canopies, creating CO2 and ozone. Oh yeah we don’t get a breeze here, so we will have some serious problems.

  21. Susan Tidwell Reply

    May 7, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    In essence, people who drive more already pay a vehicle mobility tax because they buy more gas and therefore pay more in taxes. I assume that this new tax would be additional. I can’t imagine that the current tax would be lowered.

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