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States that impose as low a tax as 2 cents a gallon on gasoline, namely, Connecticut, Missouri, New York, and Rhode Island. In the other States the tax ranges from 3 cents á gallon to 7 cents a gallon.
The average gasoline tax for all the States is a fraction over 4 cents a gallon. In the States in close proximity to the District of Columbia we find that Delaware levies a tax of 3 cents a gallon, Maryland levies a tax of 4 cents a gallon, North Carolina and South Carolina each levies a tax of 6 cents a gallon, Pennsylvania levies a tax of 3 cents a gallon, Virginia levies a tax of 5 cents a gallon, and West Virginia levies a tax of 4 cents a gallon, so that so far as the tax on gasoline is concerned the owners of motor vehicles in the District of Columbia are in a favored class.
The claim is made that it is hardly fair to compare the gasoline tax in the District of Columbia with the tax in the States for the reason that the revenue derived from such a tax in the States is used for improving public roads and not public streets, as is the case in the District of Columbia. It does not seem to the committee that there is much weight in that argument for the reason that motorists from the District of Columbia use these roads, especially roads located in States bordering the District. They purchase most of their gasoline in the District where the tax is much less than in those States, which would not obtain if the rate of tax was upon a more uniform basis.
It is also claimed by those opposed to an increase in the tax on gasoline that the District is now receiving sufficient revenue to take care of the entire expense of street improvements and maintenance. The facts, the committee finds, disprove that contention. Major Donovan, the District auditor, who is best in a position to know what amount of money is needed to take care of the streets in the District, in his appearance before the committee last December stated:
The amount of the gas tax fund is not sufficient to take care of the entire street expense. About $2,000,000 will be paid in 1932 from the gasoline tax fund; but in addition to that, about $1,200,000 more will have to be provided out of the general revenues of the District for maintenance and repairs to streets
So that it is certain, notwithstanding the optimistic statement that $2,000,000 would be derived from a tax of 2 cents a gallon on gasoline, that $1,200,000 additional money would have to be obtained from the revenues derived from other sources in the District in order to meet the entire expense of future street improvements and maintenance. Certainly no stronger argument could be made in support of a reasonable increase in the tax on gasoline than the statement made by Major Donovan.
The streets in the city of Washington, as well as the streets in other cities, are subjected to heavy motor-vehicle travel, necessitating the raising by some form of taxation of a large annual maintenance fund, in addition to the cost of widening and the creation of new arterial street highways. It is only fair, the committee thinks, that the owners of motor vehicles in the District should meet, to a large extent the costs of all these things we have pointed out.
Furthermore, we can see no logical reason why the owners of motor vehicles located in the District of Columbia should not pay a tax
on gasoline reasonably comparable with the tax levied upon the same product in other communities, particularly in the communities adjacent to the District.
Besides, nonresidents of the District of Columbia who come into the District of Columbia in their motor vehicles will generally purchase gasoline in the District and thereby contribute to the gasoline tax fund.
We, therefore, recommend that the present law providing a 2-cent tax on gasoline in the District of Columbia be increased to 4 cents & gallon, which rate of tax would be considerably less than the average rate imposed on gasoline in the States.
REGISTRATION OF MOTOR VEHICLES IN THE DISTRICT
DECEMBER 15, 1931.-Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
state of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Davis, from the Select Committee to Investigate Fiscal Relations
Between the United States and the District of Columbia, submitted the following
(To accompany H. R. 5824)
The Select Committee to Investigate Fiscal Relations Between the United States and the District of Columbia report the bill (H. R. 5824) to require the registration of motor vehicles in the District of Columbia, to prescribe registration fees based upon the weight of such motor vehicles, and for other purposes.
Under the present system of taxing automobiles as personal property and the flat rate of $1 registration fee in the District, the owners of motor vehicles in the District have been and are in a highly favored class as compared with the taxes paid on motor vehicles in the several States. The flat rate of $1 registration fee, irrespective of the weight of the motor vehicle, can not be too severely condemned. It is the heavy cars, such as trucks and buses, that do the most damage to pavements and which occupy by far the most space in the public streets. To charge the same registration fee for such motor vehicles as is charged for a light-weight passenger car is ridiculous.
In addition to this flat registration fee of $1 per car, the District assesses all cars as personal property. According to the testimony of Major Donovan before the committee, there were a little over 126,000 motor vehicles assessed the first part of last year, and the revenue derived from the assessment of these cars for the one-half year period amounted to $214,190. On this basis the total personal property tax on that number of vehicles for the full year would be $428,380. It is evident, therefore, that the total tax including the registration fee on motor vehicles for 1930 would not exceed $600,000, or a total tax of $4.75 per car.
In addition to the 126,000 cars on which the tax was paid, Major Donovan stated that there were approximately 30,000 cars having no value, on which a minimum tax of $1 per car was paid. These cars were still being used on or occupying the streets, and certainly, while in use on the public streets, should be required to pay a tax comparable with the tax paid on other cars of approximately the same weight.
The average tax per car in 1930 in the United States was approximately $14, or about three and one-half times the average tax paid upon motor vehicles in the District of Columbia. The committee can see no reason why that condition should longer obtain. It believes that the most equitable system of taxing motor vehicles is a tax based on their weight. It is the simplest as well as the fairest and most equitable method of taxing them. It is conceded by everyone that the heavier the vehicle the more it damages the public highways. This fact should be a prime factor in the determination of the amount of tax that should be imposed on motor vehicles.
The committee, therefore, recommends the enactment of a law providing for a tax on automobiles based on their weight, as a substitute for the present registration and personal property tax now imposed on motor vehicles in the District. If the rate of tax, based on weight, shall be fixed so as to produce an average revenue of $14 per car, which is the average tax per car in the United States, it would produce a substantial increase in the District revenues and no one would be hurt. The committee is reporting this bill to put such recommendation into effect.