CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislation to allow the Division of Highways to study vehicle mileage fees as an alternative to the state gas tax (SB354) passed the Senate on Monday on a partisan 24-10 vote -- with the Senate's nine Republicans all voting in opposition.
Afterward, Senate Republicans cited concerns about cost and privacy issues as reasons for opposing the mileage fee study.
Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, questioned whether Highways should be authorized to spend up to $250,000 for a consultant's study to determine the viability of a mileage fee, particularly when the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Highways is also studying alternatives for funding road construction and maintenance.
"Why pay for another consultant?" Hall asked.
Republicans had concerns that state tracking of vehicle mileage could violate personal privacy.
"Personal privacy issues have always been a concern for me," said Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph. "Taxation that sacrifices personal privacy -- I cannot support that."
Last week, Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox said vehicle mileage could be reported manually, as part of annual inspections or other state-mandated reporting, but noted that at least one state has experimented with state-installed GPS devices to automatically track vehicle mileage.
Currently, the state Road Fund receives about $1.2 billion a year of state and federal funding, but Highways officials have indicated they need to double that amount to complete and maintain all state road projects on the books.