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My Turn: Make diesel-fuel users pay their fair share

Want to raise millions of dollars for highways and bridges without raising gasoline taxes or building a casino? Just make diesel-fuel users pay their fair share!

A diesel-powered vehicle will go farther on a gallon of diesel fuel than a similar gasoline-powered vehicle will go on a gallon of gasoline. For instance, the EPA combined mileage for a 2013 VW Golf with automatic transmission is 34 mpg, while the comparable gasoline vehicle gets only 26 mpg. For these vehicles to pay the same tax on a per-mile basis, the diesel tax would have to be 31 percent more per gallon or roughly 23 cents if the gasoline tax is 18 cents.

The federal government periodically does a highway cost allocation study, most recently updated for 2000 and available online atfhwa.dot.gov/policy/hcas/addendum.htm. The federal government taxes gasoline at 18.3 cents per gallon and diesel fuel at 24.3 cents per gallon, and also taxes sales and registration for heavy trucks only, plus a tire tax weighted toward heavy tires. Even so, its numbers show that based on what cars pay, pickups and light trucks pay 50 percent too much while trucks of 80,000 pounds or more pay only half of what they should.

This would indicate that the diesel fuel tax should be more than double the gasoline tax to be fair.

About one-third of states charge a higher tax on diesel fuel than gasoline, including Maine, Vermont and Connecticut. If New Hampshire was to pass the current bill to increase the diesel tax but leave the gasoline tax alone, it would no longer be a tax increase but rather a tax equity bill, which would raise millions of dollars for roads. The trucking lobby will holler that this will increase the cost of everything shipped to New Hampshire, but that’s only fair. And where would they be without roads?

(Roy Schweiker lives in Concord.)

Legacy Comments2

And what about all those Prius owners? Would it not be better to encourage efficiency instead of penalizing it...

ya just got to love when fairness is the excuse to increase taxes. Would not the reduction in the auto fuel tax achieve the same "fairness"

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