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Obama rejects taxing miles driven

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Friday rejected his transportation secretary's suggestion that the administration consider taxing motorists based on the miles they drive instead of how much gasoline they buy.

"It is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, when asked for the president's view on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's suggestion a day earlier.

Gasoline taxes that for nearly half a century have paid for the federal share of highway and bridge construction can no longer be counted on to raise enough money to keep the nation's transportation system moving, LaHood told The Associated Press on Thursday. "We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled," the former Illinois Republican lawmaker said.

LaHood spokeswoman Lori Irving said Friday the secretary was speaking of the idea only in general terms, not as something to be implemented as administration policy.

Most transportation experts see a vehicle-miles-traveled tax as a long-term solution, but Congress is being urged to move in that direction now by funding pilot projects. The idea also is gaining ground in several states.

The governor of Idaho is talking about such a program. A North Carolina panel suggested in December the state start charging motorists a quarter-cent for every mile as a substitute for the gas tax.

Others say it eliminates an incentive for more fuel-efficient cars since gas guzzlers will be taxed at the same rate as fuel sippers.

Besides a VMT tax, more tolls for highways and bridges and more government partnerships with business to finance transportation projects are other funding options, LaHood, one of two Republicans in Obama's Cabinet, said, adding he firmly opposes raising the federal gasoline tax in the current recession.

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