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Oregon considers a move from taxing based on gallons purchased to miles driven

The state of Oregon is looking for more ways to increase revenue for road projects. As it stands now, the state receives roughly 80% of its highway funds from the 24c per gallon gasoline tax.

The only problem is, a lot of Americans today are turning towards more fuel efficient vehicles such as hybrids. With that move comes less demand for gasoline due to lower fuel consumption meaning less income for the state.

So Oregon is now testing out a GPS-based system that would allow the state to tax drivers based on miles driven instead of gallons purchased. As one might expect, many motorists and privacy advocate groups are up in arms over this move.

"The existence of such a database, which would, for the first time in history, allow for the creation of detailed daily itineraries of every driver, raises obvious privacy concerns," said David L. Sobel, general counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group in Washington.

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By Arjunne on 3/29/2006 12:41:24 PM , Rating: 2
I can't believe that they are acctually considering this as a method for funding their roads... Tracking the number of miles driven by individual citizens? This sounds like some wacky 1984 stuff, and I really don't like it. Next thing you know, they're tracking the stores we shop at, how many feet we walk per day... oh wait, they already do that. Yikes.

RE: Unreal...
By AlexWade on 3/29/2006 12:47:03 PM , Rating: 3
Don't forget, who will pay for the GPS? The taxpayers one way or another.

RE: Unreal...
By luckysnafu on 3/29/2006 12:48:52 PM , Rating: 2
If they want to charge by the mile why don't they just keep track of the mileage every year when the car is inspected or renewed? How hard would that be? Obviously people will turn their odo's back but most modern cars are digital so it is not as easy. I wonder how long this system would take to earn back the initial cost of implementing GPS into every car...

On another note, this would actually be a win-win situation for getting more taxes. You are essentially decreasing the price of gas which means people will buy/drive more meaning more miles to tax!

RE: Unreal...
By Carapace on 3/29/2006 9:55:52 PM , Rating: 2
I've been in Oregon all my life and not one of my cars, or anyone I know for that matter has had a vehicle inspection or emissions test. That would need to be implemented too.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who uses my vehicle off road. We're in the is very common. I'll be damned if I'm going to be taxed for driving on my own property.

Here's an idea, pocket the money you spend to test stupid ideas like this. It probably could have resurfaced I-5 from Portland to Eugene.

RE: Unreal...
By creathir on 3/29/2006 12:50:50 PM , Rating: 2
California is doing the same thing... or at least "looking into it"

Big Brother is watching you....
- Creathir

RE: Unreal...
By IsDanReally on 3/29/2006 2:11:44 PM , Rating: 2
The one logical thing I heard California was thinking about also, is to simply make the gas tax be a percent instead of a flat amount...that way it wouldn't stay static. I believe the amount was set over a decade ago, and never adjusted since. Obvious Joe says, do a cost of living adjustment on the gas tax.

Better Idea...
By sintaxera on 3/29/2006 3:57:34 PM , Rating: 2
Are you telling me that someone who drives 12,000 miles a year in a light, gas sipping Honda Insight is going to pay the same tax as a 12,000 mile a year gas guzzling, heavy, road destroying SUV? This doesn't make any sense.

They shouldn't be punishing road and environmentally friendly small cars, but heavy, gas guzzling vehicles. They are the ones destroying our streets and our environment.

Here's an idea. Instead of requiring everyone to install GPS just have scales at every gas pump. Vehicle Weight X tax% X gallons purchased = New gas tax.

Problem solved, and the gas companies have to pay for the scales. They can cry about having to foot the bill to over their recent record profits.

I should patent this.

RE: Better Idea...
By tcid on 3/29/2006 4:19:17 PM , Rating: 2
They already do this (kind of) with semi-trailer trucks on the freeways, so sorry, patent probably already exists.

RE: Better Idea...
By highlandsun on 3/29/2006 7:32:12 PM , Rating: 2
But it probably hasn't been extended to non-commercial / passenger vehicles yet.

Still a good idea. As for the folks whose primary driving is off-road, you lose in every situation anyway, so nothing changes there.

Odometer reading X vehicle weight sounds like a workable starting point.

RE: Better Idea...
By jconan on 3/30/2006 10:16:08 AM , Rating: 2
that's a good idea considering truckers cause the most damage. on any given highway where you see lots of trucks pass by there's quite a bit of damage to the road along with the tire debris from blown out tires.

it's not a fair tax considering some people actually drive long distance to make a living considering the job economy in oregon. the gps tax won't help them while the road is being damaged by heavy vehicles like semis and suvs with bad tires.

orgeon's dmv vehicle licensing fee isn't that well structured they should start be taxing heavy vehicles and gas guzzling vehicles. this way they'll recoup the cost from the people who live in the area or companies who utilize the routes in that area ie toll tax for semis/trucks.

RE: Better Idea...
By masher2 on 3/30/2006 4:49:49 PM , Rating: 2
> " heavy, gas guzzling vehicles. They are the ones destroying our streets and our environment..."

Err, no. SUVs weigh more, but they tend to have larger, wider tires as well. In any case, up to 95% of all road damage is either environmental or caused by tractor trailer rigs.

By android1st on 3/29/2006 6:46:29 PM , Rating: 2
Bad idea, don't get me wrong, but nonetheless a fascinating idea. People who drive a "fuel-sipping" Toyota Prius use no less road than people who drive an SUV. The Toyota driver may even drive more as this person is supposedly insulated from rising fuel costs. It's not fair that the Toyota owner should be allowed to pay less for the same use of the road. It's a question of equity. A very theoretical question, but it's still there...

RE: Interesting
By TheWarden on 3/29/2006 9:52:56 PM , Rating: 2
Except that a little Toyota doesn't cause as much wear on the road as a heavy SUV...

I'm not sure how much difference there is, but if they were going to start charging by the mile it wouldn't make any sense to me to charge all vehicles exactly the same.

RE: Interesting
By Chernobyl68 on 3/29/2006 10:24:33 PM , Rating: 2
passenger car weights are pretty negligible believe it or not. They do add up, but the damage a big rig does is about 100 times that of any car/suv.

the purchasing power of the gas tax isn't near what it used to be. the dollar was worth more, vehicles were less efficient, and construction costs were lower. Environmental laws make new road construction much more expensive than it used to be. Even if you factor in that there are more cars driving now, and thus more gas being bought, and more tax generated - more cars only make the roads wear out more quickly.

Don't forget that there are actually 2 gas taxes. One is federal, and one is state.

Ideally, your vehicle taxes would simply be based on how far you drive, and maybe "discounts" for smaller (lighter) cars or hybrid type cars. It wouldn't matter how old your car is, but primarially on how much you drive. you'd simply have to take your car to DMV every year and get your odometer read. your VLF would be maybe 1-2 cents a mile. so if you drive 15,000 miles a year (somewhere near average) you'd pay $150-300. You reward people who drive less, period.

RE: Interesting
By masher2 on 3/30/2006 4:52:49 PM , Rating: 2
> "...but the damage a big rig does is about 100 times that of any car/suv."

Fairly accurate. Trying to justify a "SUV tax" from road damage is nonsense.

> "Ideally, your vehicle taxes would simply be based on how far you drive, and maybe "discounts" for smaller (lighter) cars or hybrid type cars. "

That's pretty much the situation we have today. A smaller vehicle will consume less gas, and therefore pay less tax.

GPS Tracking
By rcc on 3/29/2006 1:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
A division of the company I used to work for made similar devices for fleet scheduling/tracking, etc.

They installed a system for the Mexico City Police department. It was amazing how many of the units malfunctioned on a frequent basis, then magically started working again. They also had to replace a lot of antennas as they were being snapped off. Guess it's hard to collect the old payola if the boss is watching. Or take the 3 hour lunch at the local strip club.

So, imagine what this would be like in general operation, installed on the vehicles of people that don't want them and are being charged on the basis of it's transmission.

Anyone want to hazard an estimate as to the longevity of the installed product?

RE: GPS Tracking
By Sunbird on 3/29/2006 1:13:04 PM , Rating: 2
I'd hazard 2 to 3 hours, "I was just driving along and it fell off."

RE: GPS Tracking
By matthewfoley on 3/29/2006 1:19:59 PM , Rating: 2
How long would they last in Hazzard County? One jump over some road construction is my guess.

Simple Solutions shouldn't be expensive...
By InternetGeek on 3/29/2006 2:25:27 PM , Rating: 2
Isn't it easier if they just made more toll roads and used some kind of pre-paid card to pay the tolls?.

RE: Simple Solutions shouldn't be expensive...
By Chernobyl68 on 3/29/2006 2:55:29 PM , Rating: 2
I've read bout GPS being used to modify driver behavior for congestion purposes. A pilot program of drivers was given a "toll credit line" of several hundred dollars over maybe 6 months or something like that. They were charged tolls to an account based on time of day, traffic volumes at the time, and route choice. If the account had money left over at the end they could keep it. I think this was in Washington state.

By InternetGeek on 3/29/2006 3:14:38 PM , Rating: 2
I can understand pricing based on congestion and other factors but I think it would only overcomplicate the matter. And the gov could end up spending more money on making the devices unhackable than what they would earn. I think the ideal solution is one that doesn't add "overhead" to riding around but still pays for the roads.

just increase the tax, duh!
By 8steve8 on 3/29/2006 2:54:32 PM , Rating: 2
why not just increase the gas tax? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????

sounds like some corruption going on to launder money out of taxpayers and into dealmakers and businessmen. and the government people can get a pat on the back and probably some browney points with the business men on the other side of the deal.

RE: just increase the tax, duh!
By jconan on 3/30/2006 10:17:27 AM , Rating: 2
probably some kickback similar to enron from the energy scandals...

RE: just increase the tax, duh!
By jconan on 3/30/2006 10:20:14 AM , Rating: 2
most lawmakers are corrupt anyway.

Think.... its why you have a brain
By stickmanonline on 3/30/2006 7:30:44 PM , Rating: 2
Taxing our movements is ridiculous. Period. Why not tax us for how often we eat, or how often we have sex. Heck why not just put a locator beacon on our ears so we can study our migration patterns and then tax that. I live in corvallis and they are trying to tax me because I have and use a cell phone?! Isn't this why we fled England and fought for our independence? It is insane that we not only have to pay for the ability to perform these tasks ( driving, cell phones, etc ) and pay their upkeep and fees but now they want to tax our ability to use a purchased product?

Read the post above "Better Idea", your an insipid fool. You paid 8 grand for a honda, I paid 30 grand for my truck, why because I need it to survive and work. I paid 30 grand... isnt that enough? The average american makes less than 16 grand a year, where is all this tax money going to come from?

Just vote no, seriously.

RE: Think.... its why you have a brain
By stickmanonline on 3/30/2006 7:36:02 PM , Rating: 2
I know I am replying to my own post but the techies aren't too bright here...

1. They will require a GPS enabled car linked to a statewide system and database.... GIS... say it with me... GIS. The name of this site is the Daily Tech.

2. A cop will have access to said GIS and when you roll in front of him and he doesn's see you on the screen... yep your hosed, can't cheat it.

3. Privacy?!?! Pay attention to the news people, we have been giving up little rights for the past decade, if they can tax my cell phone legally, they can force a gps unit to be placed in you car, its really simple. When you go to the DMV they make sure you car is ROAD WORTHY, simply put, its now ROAD worthy if there is no required GPS, headlights, taillights, etc. Anything is possible in our government, this is why it is great and why it sucks, it is also the reason we have the CHECK AND BALANCES SYSTEM... so our ability to do what we want with our government can be monitored and checked!

By masher2 on 3/30/2006 7:48:13 PM , Rating: 2
> "The average american makes less than 16 grand a year"

Eh? Median US household income for 2005 was around $45K.

> ". A cop will have access to said GIS and when you roll in front of him and he doesn's see you on the screen... yep your hosed"

While I agree with the spirit of your post, the system wouldn't work like this. GPS is one-way...your movements would be stored on-vehicle, but not transmitted back in real time.

If one of these GPS thing cost $200 after install
By PandaBear on 3/29/2006 1:33:07 PM , Rating: 2
It will probably take them 20 years for return on their investment. Someone in the government got bribed by the GPS company.

By Cocytus on 3/29/2006 2:05:46 PM , Rating: 2

Only an idiot wouldn't simply institute a simple Odometer read at the bi-annual emmisions check that the majority of cars in Oregon must go through.

Sure some tiny fraction of a percentage of folks would tamper with their odo's, but not the grand majority.

GPS special interest lobby at work....

Another piece of grist for the mill
By rcc on 3/29/2006 4:34:40 PM , Rating: 2

When I was a kid, relatively speaking, and living in Oregon, better than 1/2 my mileage was off-road. I'd be really pissed if someone tried to charge me road taxes for that mileage.

By masher2 on 3/30/2006 7:44:51 PM , Rating: 2
> "I'd be really pissed if someone tried to charge me road taxes for that mileage."

Oops, they already did. What do you think the gas tax is for?

Farm vehicles can buy diesel without state and federal long as they use it strictly for offroad use.

Yey for ecology!
By heffeque on 3/30/2006 9:33:22 AM , Rating: 2
Why not tax gas higher and that's it? It'll make people think twice before buying those sh1ty suvs. Doesn't anybody in the US think about ecology? Is thinking about ecology just for some weird wackos? Let there be many more Katrinas! Katrina orgy! Sheesh! More than half of the cars bough in europe are diesel, even race cars have their diesel engine option. Gas is too cheap in the States. People would think twice if it was as expensive as it is in Europe. Higher taxes in gas would do good for the nation, though not too good for the government. Oh, well... nobody really cares do they :-/

RE: Yey for ecology!
By masher2 on 3/30/2006 4:56:32 PM , Rating: 2
> "People would think twice if [gas] was as expensive as it is in Europe. Higher taxes in gas would do good for the nation"

Umm, have you compared the economies of a nation like France to the US? Chronic massive unemployment, a tax burden over 50% of the entire nation's GDP, and economic growth at a near-nonexistent 2%.

Let's learn from their example and NOT emulate their behavior, eh?

By kattanna on 3/29/2006 12:48:32 PM , Rating: 3
and has anyone thought about HOW it would be implemented?

i mean even if they do make these units, which would require 10 of millions of units, how are they going to get them into vehicles?

will the user have to pay for them, or is the government, aka tax payer footing the bill. how do you make sure all vehicles have them..and that the units function properly.

who has to foot the bill when the unit malfunctions

how are the units going to be unique? if each one sends out a uniqe transponder ID, then hey...once the system is cracked, give it a few days..LOL, then i can follow anyone i want without them knowing about...

anyways...the cost alone makes it the dumbest thing i have heard of in a while.

how about you raise the gas tax a few more pennies ...

Dumb Idea
By TomZ on 3/29/2006 12:55:59 PM , Rating: 3
Privacy concerns, implementation costs/difficulties, logistics, etc. - this is a really dumb idea that will never see the light of day.

By seamonkey79 on 3/30/2006 10:29:36 AM , Rating: 2
I see one big problem with anything dealing with an odometer reading... out of state...

Forget off-roading, but if I drive to Washington or California or Idaho or Connecticut, I'm not paying odometer taxes to the State of Oregon. Odometer's are unthinking machines, they don't know where you're driving...

This sounds like the City of Chicago... they finished construction on Lower Wacker Drive (you know, the one the Blues Brothers drove on :-)), and suddenly they needed to find a way to make up the 'revenue shortage' caused by the inability to ticket the homeless that were down there during construction...

"We need to find a way to punish people for being smart enough to drive a fuel efficient vehicle."

WOW you people scare me
By michal1980 on 3/30/06, Rating: -1
RE: WOW you people scare me
By Chernobyl68 on 3/30/2006 5:14:18 PM , Rating: 2
say what you will about wasteful government spending (IT contract purchases are mindbogglingly inefficient) but rising construction costs are real. Workers earn more. materials cost more. Project staging and environmental considerations make projects longer and more expensive. and all the while more people are driving and people are driving more, and the roads are wearing out just as fast.
Often its cheaper to build a new road than rehab an older one. If you want to repave I-80 between vacaville and sacramento, it could be done in six months, with good weather. but you can't shut down a highway 24-7 for that period of time when it carries probably 300,000 vehicles a day.

Hack the planet!
By Sunbird on 3/29/2006 1:01:53 PM , Rating: 2
Ways to hack the system:

Take it out and leave it at home the whole day ;)

Buy two cars that are exactly the same, one in relavant state, one from outside, switch plates on cars, drive around in out of state car :)

Way to hack current gasoline system? Much more difficult, guess them old timers knew something...

By SEAWOLF607 on 3/29/2006 3:54:51 PM , Rating: 2
That's retarded I pray to god this fails. I know if I see it on a ballot I will vote against it. It is just too big brotherish.

This will never happen
By The Blue Moose on 3/29/2006 5:49:52 PM , Rating: 2
Some state senator had to convince one of his "campaign contributors" that they were getting something for their money. So, he proposes this ridiculous idea, knowing full well it would never pass.

There are simply too many what-if's to make this thing possible. Many of which have already been mentioned.

They could only legally tax you for miles driven on state maintained roads. So, they would somehow have to match your GPS coordinates with land ownership records, and only tax you when you're on state roads. I'm sure local governments would want in on this too. All these municipalities and the state would have to work rather well together to make sure there was no double taxation and that everyone got the money they were supposed to. That alone is a guarantee of failure.

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