FACT CHECK: Does The Bipartisan Infrastructure Package Establish A Nationwide Mileage-Based User Fee?
A post shared on Facebook over 2,300 times claims the bipartisan infrastructure bill establishes a nationwide mileage-based user fee.
The infrastructure bill includes language that would create a voluntary pilot program to examine the feasibility of a national mileage-based user fee. It would not establish a new federal vehicle mileage tax.
The Senate last week passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that includes $550 billion in new spending, Axios reported. The package allocates $110 billion to roads, bridges and major projects, $66 billion for rail services, $25 billion to airports and $65 billion for broadband, among other funding, according to the outlet.
A viral Facebook post alleges, “Conveniently buried on page 508 of the 2702 page ‘Infrastructure’ bill is a national motor vehicle per mile user fee or ‘MBUF’. This is effectively a way to make driving a car too expensive to the average citizen.” A mileage-based user fee is essentially a tax based on how many miles a motorist drives per year, according to Forbes.
However, the language of the relevant section of the infrastructure bill makes clear that it actually directs the Transportation Secretary to establish a voluntary pilot program to examine the feasibility of using a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee to “restore and maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund” and to “improve or maintain the surface transportation system.” The Highway Trust Fund is primarily funded by taxes on gasoline, according to Bloomberg Law.
The objectives of the pilot program are to “test the design, acceptance, implementation, and financial sustainability of a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee,” “address the need for additional revenue for surface transportation infrastructure and a national motor vehicle per-mile fee” and “provide recommendations relating to the adoption and implementation of a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee,” according to the text of the bill.
The infrastructure bill also establishes that volunteers participating in the pilot program would get reimbursed by the government for their participation. The pilot program will run from fiscal year 2022 to 2026, according to the bill.
“Not more than 60 days after the end of each calendar quarter in which a volunteer participant has participated in the pilot program, the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, shall estimate an amount of payment for each volunteer based on the vehicle miles submitted by the volunteer for the calendar quarter and issue such payment to such volunteer participant,” the bill states.
“Section 13002 of the bill creates a national pilot per-mile fee program that would ask people to voluntarily pay per-mile fees,” Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, told Check Your Fact via email. “Section 13001 also provides grants to states to create their own pilot programs.”
Ulrik Boesen, a senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, echoed O’Toole. (RELATED: Did A Dominion Voting Systems Whistleblower Say 3.8 Million Votes Were Switched To Joe Biden?)
“They want to do a fifty state pilot and they want volunteers but there is obviously no requirement for anybody to participate,” Boesen said. “When you do something like this, you maybe think down the line it’s a system that makes sense, but short-term there would be no change.”
“They’re just studying the feasibility of it,” he added.