Hawaii road sign

Hawaii road sign

(The Center Square) - A proposal that would implement a road usage charge in Hawaii may not take a smooth path, according to the Tax Foundation of Hawaii. 

The Hawaii Department of Transportation recommends a gradual shift to an RUC, according to a report released by the department in August. A majority of drivers that participated in the report said they supported replacing the gas tax with the RUC as soon as possible. The state has set a goal of a zero-transmission in the transportation sector by 2045, eliminating fossil fuel taxes. 

The HIDOT also recommended replacing a $ 50-a-year flat fee paid by owners who drive electric vehicles with an RUC that is comparable to the per-mile rate paid by owners of the average gas-powered vehicle.

Drivers seem to favor RUCs when the money is designated for roads and bridges, but the plan could have some potholes, according to Tom Yamachika, president of the foundation. This non-partisan think-tank analyzes state policies. The first is a push for a carbon tax, he said in a commentary released Monday. 

"A carbon tax collects money to pay for the societal costs of pollution, global warming, and other environmental damage wrought by fossil fuel burning," Yamachika said. "Given that many of the environmental damages have already occurred, the goal of the tax is to fix the past damage and not simply compensate for current social costs."

At the same time, lawmakers have considered increasing fuel taxes. 

"This past session, House Bill 2278 proposed to change the barrel tax on gasoline from $1.05 to $5.27 per barrel initially, increasing in phases to $33.16 when fully phased in," Yamachika wrote. "That translates to 12.5 cents a gallon initially and 79 cents a gallon when fully phased in. Political dynamics like these make me more than a little nervous that the plan put forward by HIDOT will morph into something entirely more gruesome during the legislative process."

Associate Editor

Kim Jarrett's career spans over 30 years with stops in radio, print and television. She has won awards from both the Georgia Press Association and the Georgia Association of Broadcasters.