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Other Views: Fuel for thought

Oregon's gas tax may not be the best way to pay for roads in the future, but there's a lot to like about it.

A gas tax is related to road use. If you drive more, you pay more tax. Electric vehicles, hybrids and other alternative fuel sources complicate matters.

Legislators are preparing to have a discussion next session about a transportation package to fix more state roads and bridges that need repairs. But they should also take a look at how the money collected under the fuel tax is distributed.

It's roughly 60 percent to the state, 24 percent to counties and 16 percent to cities. It's actually more complicated than that.

Cities share dollars from their 16 percent by population, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation. Counties share in their 24 percent split by vehicle registrations. Portland gets an extra slice because it's big. All of that was established by state lawmakers.

But if you were going to put state tax dollars where they most need to go, is that how it should be divided?

Dividing the share to cities by population is a rough measure of road improvement needs. So is vehicle registration for counties. Is that the best way to do it? Why is 60 percent right for the state, 24 percent right for counties or 16 percent right for cities? Why doesn't the state use a measure that is more closely related to need such as pavement condition index?

The Legislature should re-examine the formula.