HONOLULU, HAWAII, AUG. 5, 2020 — The state Department of Transportation is currently considering a change from a gasoline tax to a mileage tax-based method of fueling the highway fund. They argue that the gas tax disproportionately hits motorists from the Leeward Coast, and those who drive big trucks, SUVs and high-performance vehicles, while drivers of hybrid and fully-electric cars get off without paying much, or any tax at all.
I signed up for a study conducted by the DOT which uses a device you plug in to your car’s computer port which tracks your vehicle usage, and reports it back to the “mother ship.” They then post their analysis of your vehicle usage and compare what you would pay in mileage tax vs. what you are currently paying in gasoline tax.
Surprise, surprise! When I look at my results, I find that the new system would routinely charge me 30% more than the gasoline tax I am currently paying! My July statement shows that based on the 500 miles I drove (pandemic has really cut down on my driving), I would have paid $5.49 in gas tax, while my estimated mileage tax would clock in at $7.97!
I did complain to the state DOT about the hike in my tax rates, but their reply, written very carefully by a communications specialist (which I am, as well), gingerly intimated that the estimates were accurate and that I could expect much of the same if they do switch from the gas tax to the mileage tax. (Of course, they will. From what I have read and seen, it is a foregone conclusion, much like the city’s switch to appointment-based bulky item pickup program. “We’re just testing,” to, “Test was a success! We’re going island-wide!”)
They argue that I’m not paying my fair share towards road maintenance, and that they need to charge me more because my car gets such great gas mileage! By their “estimate” my 2010 Scion xB gets 30 miles per gallon! Actually, if I drive really frugally, I can squeeze about 24 MPG out of the car, but no more.
My counter is that my little fuel-efficient car weighs much less and is driven much more meekly than the guy with the big V-8 truck which roars down my street every morning. My Scion puts much less stress on the roads, per mile, than heavy duty trucks, SUVs and cars with mucho, macho horsepower. Why should I pay more?
From what I have seen, this is simply a way to raise taxes. I think I’ll be returning their plug-in device soon. I’m not sure I want to contribute any more to their public relations campaign.
You can learn more about the Hawaii Road Usage Charge program at https://hiruc.org/faq/
Notes from Azuga Insight:
- All amounts have been rounded to two decimal places.
- Trips completed after 11:59pm HST will be shown in the next day’s RUC mileage statement.
- Hawaii County: RUC rate per chargeable mile is 1.9 cents. Gas Tax credit rate per gallon is 39 cents.
- Honolulu City and County : RUC rate per chargeable mile is 1.6 cents. Gas Tax credit rate per gallon is 32.5 cents.
- Kauai County : RUC rate per chargeable mile is 1.6 cents. Gas Tax credit rate per gallon is 33 cents.
- Maui County : RUC rate per chargeable mile is 1.9 cents. Gas Tax credit rate per gallon is 39 cents.