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Oregon Extends Push To Track, Tax Drivers Per Mile 658

Posted by timothy
from the he-ain't-heavy-he's-a-hitchhiker-who-stalks-and-fines-me dept.
schwit1 writes "Oregon is moving ahead with a controversial plan to tax motorists based on the number of miles they drive as opposed to the amount of fuel they consume, raising myriad concerns about cost and privacy. The problem for lawmakers is that the existing per-gallon gas tax has hit a point of diminishing returns, as Americans drive less and vehicles become more fuel efficient. Economists and civil libertarians are concerned about the Oregon pilot project in large part because some mileage meters can track and record residents' every vehicular move. Rick Geddes, a Cornell University professor, said the basic device is okay because it is simply attached to a vehicle's computer, which cannot track locations. However, Geddes said privacy concerns could resurface should governments expand the program and use SmartPhone or apps to track movements and reward motorists who avoid congested roads and drive during off-peak hours. Mark Perry, a University of Michigan scholar, says the GPS or 'black box' system is 'particularly untenable.'" Per-car tracking and taxation has been a long time coming in Oregon, and it's not the only state where such an idea's been floated.
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Oregon Extends Push To Track, Tax Drivers Per Mile

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  • Re:Meh. (Score:4, Informative)

    by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @12:43PM (#45203237)

    Also, I hate this crappy keyboard. :/

  • Inspection Time? (Score:4, Informative)

    by mx+b (2078162) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @12:44PM (#45203259)

    I am not from Oregon and maybe the laws differ, but in my state there is required yearly inspections where you get the little sticker on the windshield. I do not understand why one couldn't simply write down the mileage from the odometer once a year during your required state inspection, and that mileage is submitted to the state as the amount to tax you on? (You of course would get a copy of the form for your own records). Why have a device that tracks anything at all when there is already an odometer that does exactly what they want, track mileage! Use the existing services - mandatory state inspection - and bam, done. No tracking, no extra expenses.

    Of course, I am not sure why you would want to tax mileage in the first place. I'd rather raise the gas taxes, and if people driving big 4-wheel-drive jeeps 1 hr each way to work can't afford it, then maybe it will finally prompt some rethinking about what cars we buy and how we do this whole jobs and commute thing. I would like to see more telecommuting, etc, for example. (But I would guess there would instead be an uprising from anti-tax people that want their big jeep rather than simply thinking basic economics, so probably wouldn't happen like this anyway).

  • by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:00PM (#45203537)

    To a large extent, your use of fuel is proportional to your damage to roads. Lots of weight, acceleration and braking, will all put more wear on the road and at the same time use more fuel.

    Full electric or plug-in cars can use no gas, but they sure as heck don't have zero impact on the roads. You can start taxing electricity to raise money for transportation maintenance, but since electricity is used for so many other things that's hardly fair either.

    It's a problem that has to be solved at some point as more and more fuel-efficient cars get on the road. You can propose other alternatives than the GPS tracking-type systems -- the most obvious being to just tax based on odometer readings, possibly with a factor related to vehicle weight -- but pretending that you can continue to just increase gas taxes and everything will work out isn't going to solve anything.

  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:22PM (#45203911) Journal

    Or they could just do like almost every other state in the Union and just PASS A SALES TAX.

    I'm sure the more impoverished among us out here would really appreciate your suggestion. I'm doubly certain that all the stores in Portland (esp. those which sell large items, such as furniture) would appreciate seeing a huge drop in business from Washington State shoppers.

    But, you know, unintended consequences and all that.

    Incidentally, income and property taxes out here more than makes up for the lack of sales tax.

    Now your cutting costs idea? I like that.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:31PM (#45204065)

    2 words: electric cars

    Oregon has a $5000 tax credit [wikipedia.org] for electric cars. It is ridiculous to both subsidize and tax the same thing. Instead of trying to tax electric cars, they could just eliminate or reduce the subsidy.

  • by CaptSlaq (1491233) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:10PM (#45204721)

    the gas tax is going away as cars get more efficient. Yes yes, raise the tax you say and you can make it up. What about non-gas cars? Used to be so niche a segment as to not matter but very quickly it's going to be a significant portion. Plan ahead and make it a 'use' tax (and frankly I had use taxes, terribly regressive). Maybe have a minimum free usage of say 20k miles; tax anything over that. The gas tax is nothing but a crude tax on miles driven coupled by vehicle weight. Big vehicles usually get lower mileage and do more damage...hence they pay a higher tax than a motorcycle which gets 10x the mileage of a semi. The odometer combined with vehicle registration is all we need to accomplish this. No privacy implications at all.

    Every time I bring up the "Use the odometer" statement, I get a rash of comments saying "That doesn't properly account for the edge case".

  • by Kelson (129150) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:58PM (#45205415) Homepage Journal

    California has a bi-annual smog inspection. Smog inspections have been shown to be very effective at reducing smog.

    Hybrids and electric cars are exempt [dmv.org] though, along with several other alternative fuels, really old cars (older than 1975 and still running), and new cars less than six years old. So CA only gets the data on older cars that are using the "usual" amount of gas.

    If California were to implement the plan that Oregon is looking at, they wouldn't be able to use the smog inspections, because the segment they want to add is the same segment that's exempt from inspections.

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