backtop


Print 124 comment(s) - last by mmcdonalataocd.. on Jan 5 at 3:02 PM


A new mileage tax may replace the gas tax in Oregon. Oregon residents will be taxed by the number of miles travelled, as they travel along the state's highways like Highway 30 pictured here. Those not participating will face higher taxes at the pump.  (Source: Lyn Topinka)
A new ambitious high-tech effort to fairly distribute roadwork taxes proposed in Oregon, but can it overcome fears of government tracking?

Nobody likes to pay taxes, but they are reality of modern U.S. government as we know it.  However, if you have to pay taxes, you at least want them to be fair.  That's the mentality driving a rather revolutionary, albeit controversial, new plan in the state of Oregon.

In Oregon, as in other states, people have long complained about using fuel taxes to finance road work.  Such measures place a larger tax burden on those in professions requiring heavier vehicles.  So Oregon's Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) has developed a new plan -- pay by mileage.

Oregon, whose highways recently gained attention via a new solar project, is now looking to legislate the governor's plan.  The new legislation will provide Oregon with "a path to transition away from the gas tax as the central funding source for transportation" via a mileage tax implemented with the help of GPS satellites.

While the exact details are still being ironed out, Gov. Kulongoski's web page gives the basics of the plan.  In it he states, "As Oregonians drive less and demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, it is increasingly important that the state find a new way, other than the gas tax, to finance our transportation system."

He is creating a task force "to partner with auto manufacturers to refine technology that would enable Oregonians to pay for the transportation system based on how many miles they drive."  Key studies were performed in 2006 and 2007 that indicate that such a program would indeed be possible. 

In the 2007 test which lasted 10 months with 300 motorists at two service stations, drivers were taxed 1.2 cents per mile and were refunded the 24 cents a gallon state gas tax.  When the motorists got to the pump, their vehicles connected to government computers informing them of the mileage (calculated via GPS tracking) and issuing tax.  Equipment for the test came from Oregon State University.

While clever, the program faces one enormous thorny obstacle -- concerns over the loss of privacy. 

The governor's online outline states, "The governor is committed to ensuring that rural Oregon is not adversely affected and that privacy concerns are addressed."

Despite assurances from James Whitty, the ODOT official in charge of the project, that the new GPS system would not be used for continuous tracking of citizens' cars, many advocacy groups are outraged and many remain fearful.  The final report on the 2007 test deployment was conscious of this fear, stating, "The concept requires no transmission of vehicle travel locations, either in real time or of travel history.  Accordingly, no travel location points are stored within the vehicle or transmitted elsewhere. Thus there can be no ‘tracking’ of vehicle movements."

Advocates point out that the devices are not developed by Oregon, but rather by industry partners.  The program's policy page states, "ODOT would have no involvement in developing the on-vehicle devices, installing them in vehicles, maintaining them or having any other access to them except, perhaps, in situations involving tampering or similar fee evasion activities."

However, even if privacy concerns can be laid to rest, there will also be a large price tag associated with initially implementing the program, one which may give residents sticker shock.  An initial investment of $20M USD would be needed, according to the governor, just to see if the program was viable.  A full deployment would require GPS be gradually added to gas stations and to all vehicles in the state.

The proposal also calls for a punitive tax against those not adopting the new device -- the gas tax will continue for vehicles not equipped to pay the mileage tax, but it will be increased 2 cents.



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Gas tax already taxes us by mileage
By chrisld on 12/31/2008 1:29:28 PM , Rating: 2
Has the world gone insane? I know the government would like to tax us for everything and preferably twice or more times for the same thing so that they can spend more on expenses and foreign wars. However, let us not forget that there are already huge taxes on gasoline. That automatically taxes us for not only mileage but also how efficient our vehicle is.

Unless we are all keen to pay tax for the same thing twice, I think we should resist this one.




RE: Gas tax already taxes us by mileage
By FITCamaro on 12/31/2008 1:49:36 PM , Rating: 2
Did you even read the article? It clearly says that people were getting a refund for the taxes they paid on gas.

I still agree that this is a bad idea. But in all honesty, roads have to be paid for. Currently that is done largely through fuel taxes. As higher mileage vehicles become more prevalent, those revenues go down. So you either cut spending on roads leading to degradation, raise taxes which leads to even less fuel being purchased (through reduced driving and/or purchasing more higher mpg vehicles), or figure out a new way to pay for them.


By Reclaimer77 on 12/31/2008 1:56:09 PM , Rating: 1
Are you assuming the cost to build and maintain roads even comes CLOSE to the huge budgets states set aside for road funding ?

Here in Charlotte our roads are SHIT. What did the government do to help drivers out ? They took millions from the road fund and used it to build a light rail. Which then went MILLIONS over budget.


RE: Gas tax already taxes us by mileage
By Suntan on 12/31/2008 2:35:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
raise taxes which leads to even less fuel being purchased (through reduced driving and/or purchasing more higher mpg vehicles


But this is a win-win.

Either you get more tax revinue to repair the road, or you get less traffic on the roads and they don't wear out as quickly.

-Suntan


By FITCamaro on 12/31/2008 3:46:22 PM , Rating: 2
You seem to have missed where I said people purchase higher mileage vehicles. If you get 60 mpg and I get 30 mpg, our cars weight the same, and we both drive the same distance each day, you contribute less to the up keep of the roads than me despite using them the same amount.

Yes a lighter vehicle impacts the roads less than a heavier vehicle (that presumable gets worse mpg), but I hardly think the difference is so much less that it offsets the lost tax revenue over time.


RE: Gas tax already taxes us by mileage
By chrisld on 12/31/2008 3:17:29 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, but it makes no sense. Damage on roads is surely some function of mileage x weight of vehicle so it is fair that those using heavier vehicles pay more per mile as they cause more wear. Thus, as heavier vehicles use more fuel, the extant fuel tax already takes care of this. This is just an attempt to track us and get more taxes out of us.

I bet the fuel tax is a percentage of the gas price. So the government would have been really happy with the recent huge gas price. Now the price is lower and their income dropped, they want to find a way to up the amount we pay.


By FITCamaro on 12/31/2008 3:52:16 PM , Rating: 2
The federal gasoline tax is 18.4 cents per gallon. It is not a percentage of the current price of gasoline. At least not yet.

With our new incoming administration favoring extremely high gas prices, I could see them wanting to change the tax to be a percentage of the current price of gas. So then you'd have to take out the 18.4 cents + state tax from the price of gas. Pump your gas. Calculate federal tax. Then add in state tax per gallon. This would require fuel pumps to be reprogrammed which is a good reason to hope this wouldn't happen.

But given that Obama sees oil companies as having bottomless pockets, I don't see him caring what effect it has on businesses (since the oil companies largely do not own stations which pump their gas).


"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

Related Articles













botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki