Oklahoma weighing feasibility of taxing motorists per mile driven

By: - September 18, 2023 5:30 am

Drivers make their way along North Lincoln Boulevard near East Eubanks Street in Oklahoma City. A transportation study is underway to study implementing a per-mile tax instead of the current gas tax model. (Photo by Mindy Ragan Wood/Oklahoma Voice)

A state transportation study is examining whether Oklahoma drivers should be taxed per mile instead of at the gas pump.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is conducting the Fair Miles Oklahoma pilot project as a pay-per-mile alternative to the existing 20-cent tax that is added on to each gallon of fuel. The study was authorized in 2021 by the state Legislature and must be completed no later than Dec. 31, according to House Bill 1712.

ODOT spokesperson Bryce Boyer said as cars become more fuel efficient and more drivers choose electric vehicles, the gas tax revenue used to repair roads and bridges declines. The study will develop a per-mile rate to match the current gas tax rate for a possible replacement model.

The study’s cost is estimated at $3.9 million. ODOT will pay $1.9 million and the remaining $1.9 million will be paid using a federal alternative transportation grant.

Findings of the study could lead to a per-mile charge or “other options,” Boyer said.

“The program is designed to be fair and equitable, ensuring all drivers in the state pay for using roads,” he said.

The study includes vehicles of varying fuel efficiency levels, from older cars with 8 mpg to electric and hybrid fuel cars with more than 40 mpg, Boyer said.

More than 440 Oklahoma drivers across 63 counties have volunteered since June to report their mileage to the agency. The drivers receive a mock invoice with a simulated charge for the miles driven and provide feedback to ODOT. Drivers do not owe any money during the study.

Volunteers report mileage through a variety of methods including submitted photographs of the odometer via an app, an automatic-reporting device attached to the vehicle, or internal vehicle technology similar to OnStar.

“These options allow us to accept more vehicle types and allows participants to choose which option works best for them,” Boyer said.

Other options to recoup fuel tax revenue would be up to the Legislature to consider, Boyer said. He also said the study is only evaluating the gas tax and is not examining vehicle registration increases. Some states have imposed higher registration fees for electric vehicles to recoup lost gas tax revenue, according to a report by CNET.

Oklahoma’s gas and diesel tax rate is among the lowest in the nation, with only four other states reporting below 20 cents. The top three states with the highest gas tax rates are California at 62.9 cents; Pennsylvania, 57.6 cents; and Washington, 49.4.

ODOT officials said 19 other states are conducting similar studies and some are implementing pay per-mile programs.


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Mindy Ragan Wood
Mindy Ragan Wood

Mindy covers the legislature for Oklahoma Voice. Her areas of focus include infrastructure, municipal government policies, and human services with an emphasis on the needs of intellectually vulnerable and physically challenged adults.