Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How about a mileage tax instead of gasoline tax?

Oregon is considering replacing the gasoline tax with a tax on miles driven. The proposed rate would be 1.25 cents per mile, which would amount to $125 for every 10000 miles. The claim is that the tax would be the same for a car that gets 19.7 miles per gallon (and is driven 12000 miles a year).

The state is claiming that technology exists to determine whether miles were driven in or out of state. The technology involves downloading digital odometer readings and transmitting them to the state (through XML, no less) every time the motorist fills up. Privacy advocates that this makes the state "Big Brother" and able to track a motorist's movements.

High mileage vehicles, and particularly hybrids or electrics or other innovative cars that perhaps don’t use conventional fuel at all, still use road surfaces but may contribute much less revenue for road and bridge maintenance, in a time when infrastructure maintenance is a top political priority all over the country (as with the Minneapolis bridge collapse in August 2007). However, high mileage vehicles may weigh less and contribute less to wear.

The fact that the gasoline tax penalizes gas guzzlers happened by accident, policies said. Yet, at times, some people have claimed that driving a gas guzzler is personally “sinful” and adding to global warming and dependence on foreign oil. Libertarians, on the other hand, insist that government has no business making such social engineering pronouncements. People with large families tend to buy larger vehicles that may consume more fuel, and sometimes commute longer, from further suburbs.

Any tax on driving penalizes people who live in rural areas, particularly in less populated western or mountain states, more.

The story by Eric Pyne “Oregon to test mileage tax as replacement for gas tax” appeared July 5 in the Seattle Post Intelligencer and the link is here.

Another typical story appears at CFIF and is titled "Taxing by the Green Mile", here.

An earlier story in the San Francisco Chronicle, by Edward Epstein, "Hybrids could pay more gas tax: U.S. to study tariffs on miles driven, not gallons purchased," dates back to April 20, 2005, link here.

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