Are Toll Roads Double Taxation?
Supporters of higher taxes and inefficient government are trotting out the old "double taxation" canard when arguing against congestion pricing and toll roads. It's a great sound bite, but it's faulty logic.
Toll opponents falsely argue that tolling is a “double tax” because motorists are “already paying at the pump”. Toll opponents’ logic is faulty because taxpayers are already paying multiple taxes for transportation:
- twice at the pump (federal and state gas taxes)
- three times at the cash register (portions of state, county, city sales taxes are used for roads)
- twice on property taxes (portions of county and city property taxes are used for roads)
- once when they buy a newly built home (many cities impose impact fees for roads)
- twice when they register their vehicles (state and some counties)
Additionally, toll opponents “double taxation” argument inevitably leads to the following illogical positions:
- Roads can only be funded with one and only one revenue source. Opponents should choose wisely which source because they only get one pick otherwise it's "double taxation".
- Double taxation exists in K-12 public education because schools are funded with state income taxes, local property taxes, federal income taxes, state liquor taxes, and fees.
- Double taxation exists in nearly every government operation since very few government programs rely on a single source of revenue.
Finally, if imposing a toll is a form of “double taxation” because we are already “paying at the pump”, then wouldn’t increasing sales taxes – which is what toll opponents want to do – be a form of “double taxation” since we would be paying at the cash register as well?
Congestion pricing -- a form of tolling that charges higher tolls during rush hour and lower or zero tolls during off-peak hours -- provides an incentive for commuters to change their driving habits. When commuters telecommute, car pool, leave earlier or later for work, or live closer to work, Utah can spend less on transportation in the long run. Congestion pricing is more than just a funding mechanism but rather a means to incent commuters to use transportation infrastructure more efficiently.