HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering a change from a gas tax to a road usage charge to even out revenue among cars with different fuel efficiency standards.
“The gas tax historically has been the largest source of revenue for the highways division over the years. However, as cars get more fuel efficient or don’t use any fuel at all, that gas tax revenue is declining, and it’s only going to get worse,” said Tim Sakahara, spokesman for the Department of Transportation.
To help residents across the state understand the difference between how much they are paying now to how much they could be paying under the road usage charge, the DOT will be sending out driving reports, beginning with people who just completed their safety checks in October.
Sakahara said during the safety check, the odometer is recorded. They then take that record and calculate it with the proposed road usage charge to create a personalized driving report for the resident. The report compares how much the resident paid last year in gas taxes based on their car’s make, model and year and how much they would have paid if it had been a road usage charge.
“That comparison is very helpful because just on the surface, a lot of people when they hear, ‘Oh I’m going to be charged by the mile,’ they automatically assume that they are going to pay more, and that’s not always the case,” said Sakahara.
Under the current gas tax, drivers pay more than 32 cents per gallon on state and county taxes. Under the road usage charge, the DOT said the charge could potentially be about a penny and a half per mile.
Sakahara said the difference in how much you’ll pay depends on how much gas your car uses and how much mileage per gallon you get.
“If someone’s car gets 20 to 21 miles per gallon right now, they’re probably going to break even. They’ll pay the exact same amount under the fuel tax as the road usage charge. If their car uses less than that 20 miles per gallon or so then they’re actually going to save money,” said Sakahara.
He said the people who will see the biggest increase will be electric vehicle owners.
“If their car gets better gas mileage than 20 miles per gallon or they don’t need gas at all, then they’ll end up mostly paying more under a road usage charge,” said Sakahara.
Along with the driving report, people will be asked to take an online survey of their thoughts on the change.
“We do want people when they notice this driving report is coming in the mail to kind of look at it and let us know what they think,” said Sakahara.
“All that information is going to be compiled, and ultimately it will be sent to the capitol for the Hawaii state legislators and ultimately the governor, to decide is this something we want to pursue?”
About a thousand driving reports will be sent across all islands this week, and about 50,000 will be sent out by the end of November. Sakahara said these will be sent out about a month after you complete your safety check.
Those that may not get the driving reports will be people who don’t complete their safty checks because they may have new cars.
If you don’t receive a report, but still want to let the state know what you think of the road usage charge, you can still take the survey and find out more information on the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s website. To find out more about the driving report, you can click here.