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Vehicle Miles Traveled would hit Brainerd lakes economy hard

Congress is considering yet another tax on driving. House of Representatives (H.R.) 5972, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act of 2013, would levy a user fee tax on the distance a driver travels.

The Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) would tax every vehicle on the road, requiring every vehicle to be fitted with a device that both records miles driven and transmits the information to a government database.

However, an amendment to that bill would prohibit the utilization of funds by the Secretary of Transportation to research, or implement, a distance-based fee system. The amendment was introduced by Minnesota Rep. Chip Cravaack. The measure passed with bipartisan support on June 29.

Implementing a VMT tax would be costly. It would increase the overall cost per vehicle, which would then be passed on to the car buyer. Retrofitting existing vehicles would be an additional pre-tax expense.

A VMT tax would also present a disadvantage to Brainerd lakes area residents, resort owners and businesses in the region. It could devastate our tourist industry. Midwest vacationers planning on driving to the lakes area, might have second thoughts because of the increased cost of a vacation due to a VMT tax. Further, employees living any distance from their job would be saddled with an additional expense if they have to commute daily, say from Backus to Brainerd or Crosby to Baxter.

Simple tasks such as grocery shopping, dropping the kids off at soccer practice, or going to and from a medical procedure would be racking up miles, with the government monitoring each mile traveled in order to get more tax revenue.

Why this tax? Why now?

Because of the recession and high unemployment, fewer workers are commuting to and from work. In addition, cars have become more efficient, burning less gas. The current system of taxation has been on a per gallon of gasoline sold. Simply put, tax revenues are down.

This VMT tax is a bad idea. It penalizes rural drivers who tend to travel greater distances than their urban counterparts. Tell Congress this VMT tax is not a work-around for declining transportation revenue.

Keith Hansen