Julie McDonald Commentary: Per-Mile Vehicle Tax Will Hurt Rural Residents


If you live in a rural area, state and federal lawmakers plan to pick your pocket.

Washington state lawmakers and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have proposed state and federal taxes on the miles a vehicle travels. For rural residents such as many in Lewis County, the efforts translate into taking more money from our pocketbooks.

In July 2019, I wrote about state Department of Transportation officials proposing a per-mile vehicle tax because too many people were driving fuel-efficient cars. That meant the state’s 49.5-cent-per-gallon (the nation’s highest) tax on gasoline wasn’t bringing in as much revenue.

Now, state lawmakers have proposed Senate Bill 5444, which would place a per-mile charge on electric and hybrid vehicles starting in 2026. They may start with a fee on electric and hybrid vehicles, but they could easily expand that to all vehicles as fuel efficiency continues to improve. So much for being good stewards of the environment.

Rural residents, farmers, truck drivers, commuters — all would pay more under a per-mile tax. In 2019, state officials proposed replacing the gas tax with a per-mile tax. But do you believe they’ll repeal the gas tax? And with a per-mile tax, the government would track where people drive in order to tell how many miles they’ve traveled. It’s not a pleasant thought.

You’d think lawmakers would realize how hard people have been hit economically during the 2020 pandemic.

But no — state senators have already passed a capital gains tax, described as a 7 percent tax only on the wealthy as the bill exempts an individual’s first $250,000 of adjusted capital gains. But it easily could end up a tax on others if lawmakers decided to drop the monetary threshold.

When will state and federal lawmakers learn to live within their means? We have to.

And, after allowing scammers to steal more than $600 million in fraudulent unemployment claims, you’d think state leaders would focus on cleaning up the places where they’re leaking hard-earned taxpayer dollars instead of simply tapping into more.


Gun Control

My heart breaks every time anyone grabs a gun and shoots innocent people, perhaps in a nonsensical catastrophic attempt to gain notoriety through the senseless slaughter of others.

Every shooting reignites the debate over gun control.

Gun control advocates want to ban assault weapons — semiautomatic rifles, pistols and shotguns.

Gun rights defenders repeat the mantra that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” pointing to high murder rates in cities and states with strict gun laws.

I never understood why anyone needed a semiautomatic to hunt a deer. I still don’t. But when I enrolled in a women’s gun safety class in Olympia a few years ago, I found it much easier to pull the trigger and hit the target using a 9 mm semiautomatic.

Maybe they’re too easy to use.

I don’t know how to stop the killing of people in churches, theaters, grocery stores or schools. It stems from hate, a lack of respect for others, and perhaps mental illness. I don’t know how to fix it.

However, if someone opens fire in a public place, I hope a responsible gun owner on the scene can stop the shooter before carnage ensues.


Stolen Election

In defending herself in a defamation lawsuit, attorney Sidney Powell gained notoriety by insisting that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen from President Donald Trump.

Afterward, Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.4 billion defamation lawsuit against Powell — and a $1.6 billion suit against Fox News — but in her defense, Powell’s lawyers stated that no “reasonable person” would believe her outrageous claims.

“Indeed, Plaintiffs themselves characterize the statements at issue as ‘wild accusations’ and ‘outlandish claims.’ They are repeatedly labeled ‘inherently improbable’ and even ‘impossible,’” her attorneys wrote. “Such characterizations of the allegedly defamatory statements further support Defendants’ position that reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact but view them only as claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process.”

Guess I know a lot of unreasonable people then.

I hope Dominion doesn’t settle. I’d like to see Powell try to prove in court all those baseless claims she made that undermined our American democracy. If she can, I’ll apologize for failing to believe her. If she can’t, will all those who claim the election was stolen actually accept that it was a free and fair election? I doubt it.

I’ve said time and again that only Jesus Christ is worthy of faith — believing without proof — not Donald Trump.


Toledo Airport

I’m heartened to see that Lewis County commissioners listened to constituents who opposed expanding South Lewis County Airport into a large commercial passenger hub, or, SeaTac2. The airport is described as “a community service airport” in the state’s Aviation System Plan and Long-Term Air Master Plan of 2017.

“As the owner of the SLC Airport, Lewis County requests that the South Lewis County Airport be removed from the analysis considering airports that could provide significant commercial service,” commissioners wrote in a March 24 letter to the state Commercial Aviation Coordinating Committee. “Lewis County is not supportive, nor will we take steps, to expand the airport runway to accommodate either large commercial air service or air cargo operations.”

Although it appears the issue is settled, it looked that way more than a decade ago, too. In 2010, commissioners talked about air freight cargo planes flying into the Toledo airport and the South County Subarea Plan identified 600 acres near Toledo for retail, commercial and industrial development.

It may be a fight residents will wage every decade or so.


Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com.