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Oregon Governor Proposes Vehicle Mileage Tax 713

tiedyejeremy writes "As covered by the Crosscut Blog, the Governor of Oregon, Ted Kulongoski, is proposing a change in the funding of the Oregonian transportation system that drops gasoline taxes and, by way of GPS tracking, taxes the number of miles driven, to the tune of 1.2 cents per mile. The reason for the proposed change is that lower fuel consumption via fuel efficiency will leave the system underfunded. The concerns involve government tracking of the movements of vehicles within the state, though this has been denied by ODOT official, James Whitty. I'm wondering how this affects people using the Interstate System and private roads, and if the outputs can or will be used by law enforcement to check alibis."
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Oregon Governor Proposes Vehicle Mileage Tax

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  • by Gizzmonic ( 412910 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:42PM (#26271367) Homepage Journal

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  • by hardburn ( 141468 ) <hardburn&wumpus-cave,net> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:51PM (#26271525)

    And GPS drops out from time to time. What's the state going to do to people who "accidentily" build a faraday cage around the antenna?

  • Define vehicle (Score:4, Interesting)

    by baffled ( 1034554 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:52PM (#26271537)
    What about my moped? My bicycle? Are you going to tax me when I go jogging?

    Oh my, a mileage tax causes such warm and fuzzy feelings.
  • by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:00PM (#26271671) Journal

    Well that's the point, isn't it... well, maybe.

    Not sure about the USA, but in NL you pay all sorts of taxes on gas (one of the highest in the world) + a road use tax. Both go toward, among other, road maintenance as well.

    As cars get more efficient in terms of gas use, the gov't wallet slims down.. but given the same car in terms of e.g. weight, footprint (literal - i.e. tires-on-road), it doesn't matter whether you're super-efficient or the worst gas guzzler in the world... you're still putting the same wear-and-tear on that road. Ergo, they have to..
    A. increase gas prices more
    B. increase road use taxes more
    C. create a new (context-dependent) per-mile (kilometer) tax
    D. go with a bit of A, drop B and implement C -and- add an entirely new tax that -everybody- pays.. whether you actually drive a car or not, as dropping B does not get compensated enough by A and C.

    Of course they spin this as a positive thing, as those who drive a lot will now pay more, while those who drive say 20,000km/year will be off much cheaper... thanks in part to those driving 0km/year helping pay. ho hum.
    ( not that I'm fervently opposed to it - my goods are delivered by road, so even if I don't travel on it.. transport companies do - but I was under the impression I already paid for transportation cost by paying for the product. hmpf. )

  • Tax Circus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mugnyte ( 203225 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:00PM (#26271681) Journal

    Oregon is a circus of strange tax experiments. OR's income tax rates are relatively high (9%), but they do not have a sales tax. Discussions about introducing a sales tax are non-starters, as there are so many changes that multiple parties object. Economic gains/losses are magnified due to this, as the employment numbers rise/fall, but out-of-state shopper populations change on different cycles.
      There is also a "kicker" that is given back when state revenue from taxes exceeds the estimate (budget) by 2% or more. But then the state spends about 1.3$million on mailing individual checks, tracking people down, etc - instead of simply putting tax credits on the books for the next year.
      There have been serious talks about taxing/licensing bicycles due their use of roads (no idea if its by wheel, weight, speed, rider's age, etc). Portland, OR has a large population of cyclists that intermingle with cars on many local roads.
      The state has a huge income disparity between urban and rural districts, and thus pools its school funding monies for dispersal but other statistics, which creates lots of friction all around.
      Property taxes go up, but there are endless initiatives to deny funding increases to social services, since they are under constant accusal of being bloated. The truth depends on what you define as adequate social servicing.

      See the Oregon Tax Revolt [] for some info.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:04PM (#26271767)

    Someone else mentioned this is "astoundingly stupid" because heavier vehicles do more damage to the road, so they should be taxed more. He is correct.

        But there is something so perverse here it makes my skin crawl. Taxing per mile driven DECREASES the road tax on heavy gas guzzlers. For example, two cars go on a 100 mile road trip. One is a SUV that gets 12.5 mpg so it uses 8 gallons. The other is a Prius and uses two gallons. At 25 cents per gallon, the SUB would pay $2 in tax versus 50 cents for the Prius.

        That's the old way. The new way is that both cars would pay $1.20 in tax to make the trip. So the effect of this change is to increase the road tax on efficient cars and decrease the road tax on inefficient cars.

        The GOOD solution has been mentioned by many many people here. Increase the tax per gallon. The state gets enough money to maintain the roads, and we preserve lower taxes per mile for light efficient vehicles.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:11PM (#26271883)
    <PartiallyIntendedAsTroll>So with all the comments on the topic so far, why hasn't anyone complained about the fact that this is coming from a Democrat?</PartiallyIntendedAsTroll>?

    Insurance companies have been looking to get GPS devices into vehicles for tracking driving patterns for a while now. I believe the intent is to not only track mileage but determine your rates based on where you drive your vehicle. If you happen to pass through high crash sections of roads or intersections, you may face a premium. Drive a back road with high deer population and your rates could go up. Make sudden changes in speed (i.e. sudden stops from tailgating or not paying attention due to cell phone usage), expect to pay for it.

    Pennsylvania apparently is also looking at creative ways to raise infrastructure revenue. My parents (that live in PA) mentioned that the PA Turn Pike (toll road run by the state) is potentially going to be sold to a private company. The PA governor is ignoring all the tolls over the last 30+ years that should have covered the road and maintenance. Gotta wonder who's providing incentives to him for that deal.

  • by jefu ( 53450 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:12PM (#26271899) Homepage Journal

    I have heard (but can't seem to verify via google etc) that road damage goes up with the fourth power of vehicle weight, with the square of the speed and (naturally) linearly with miles travelled. So, to get people to pay proportional to the amount of road work needed, if I pay $1 for my car, a semi (with reasonable assumptions about speed and miles travelled) should be paying $500,000 or more - the weight is by far the largest factor and when multiplied by number of miles travelled gets big quickly. For lighter, more fuel efficient vehicles the numbers would be even larger.

    This kind of tax, then, would penalize most drivers and essentially subsidize the trucking industry even more than is currently the case.

  • Just the beginning. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swordfishBob ( 536640 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:15PM (#26271945)

    Add a few more players to the game, and you get:
    - A national system of tollways, with microcharging so it's useable on roads of any size
    - A billing system for parking stations, event parking, or even roadside parking at all in city zones
    - Ability to charge more for certain roads during peak periods (like a congestion tax)
    - A speed tax?

  • by Zordak ( 123132 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:15PM (#26271957) Homepage Journal

    What's the downside? It's not like people are going to consume less gas if the tax goes up.

    Gas is not that inelastic. When the price of gas hit $4/gal., I got a bus pass. There's a park-and-ride right by my house, and the express goes straight downtown to where I work. And I now spend 25 minutes each way on leisure reading rather than fighting traffic. Now that gas is cheap, I still ride the bus. Basically, whoever decided to put on the squeeze made a permanent convert. I probably won't ever go back to driving myself. Between gas and parking, I save $200 to $300 a month and I save myself lots of trouble.

  • farcical (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eil ( 82413 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:19PM (#26272021) Homepage Journal

    This is such a thinly-veiled farce it's not even funny.

    First off, the premise that people are dropping their gas guzzlers for fuel-efficient vehicles is just plain wrong. Where I live, huge trucks and SUVs are still all the rage for highway commuters. Cars are still very much in the minority on the roads and I haven't seen any evidence that consumers are migrating to economy cars in any significant numbers, even with the insane gas prices we saw this year. The prices were high enough to be an inconvenience and give SUV owners something to complain about on their way to Starbucks, not enough to cause people to trade in their status symbols for something economical.

    Second, I hate it that when one tax revenue stream starts to lower somewhat, the first thing politicians try to do is find something else to tax instead of looking at where they can reduce spending.

    Third, as others have pointed out, there are much easier ways of tracking individual vehicle mileage that don't severely impinge on civil liberties. Mark my words, this is a surveillance program first and a taxation program second. Just like the purpose of OnStar isn't as much for life-or-death emergencies (as you hear on the commercials) as it is for tracking the car if/when the police become interested in it.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:26PM (#26272149)

    GPS unit 1341235423523 bought 50 gallons of gas but only drove 50 miles per the GPS. Odd that Prius is only getting 1 MPG.

    Aside from extreme examples, I look forward to watching tax agents bust down doors of people whom have poorly maintained cars because they "must" be tax cheats. My old 1980's plymouth horizon got 30 MPG on a good day, but when the choke stuck during winter I was lucky to get double digit MPGs on short trips.

    I suspect the next step is location based taxes. For example parking a car within 500 feet of a church is free, yet anyone whom parks within 500 feet of an adult video stores will have their visit documented on a public web site and charged a $50 parking fee. Or anyone whom doesn't attend / park nearby a church every week will pay a higher tax "Y".

    Then of course there are the known tobacco smokers whom drive within X feet of a public school where it's illegal to have or use tobacco products within X feet. Or gunowners. Etc.

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:38PM (#26272301) Homepage Journal

    What I don't get is this: why in h*ll would they put a privacy-violating GPS device in to count mileage when:

    • GPS doesn't work reliably in cities with tall buildings, frequently losing signal, and thus completely unable to record mileage where it is most important to do so,
    • GPS doesn't work reliably in mountainous terrain, frequently putting you miles off course (thus artificially inflating your drive distance by a mile in the course of a tenth of a second) or losing the signal entirely for miles at a time.
    • GPS doesn't work in tunnels.
    • GPS is trivially jammed or spoofed.
    • Your car already has a perfectly good odometer.

    Even if we assume that the GPS will merely be used to determine where you are, half the Oregon borders are in the mountains, so you may well find yourself getting billed for miles not driven within the state. Not to mention that you're probably adding a couple hundred bucks to the cost of every automobile, all for the sole purpose of giving the government more revenue.

    To add insult to injury, at 1.2 cents per mile, you would have to go almost 17,000 extra miles in that hybrid beyond what you would have gotten on that amount of fuel in a non-hybrid car. With typical hybrids getting maybe 5-10% higher MPG on average, the break-even point is when the car has gone between 170k and 340k miles. If everybody just paid that same $200 to the state as a tax on the sale of a new vehicle, it would give the state probably twice as much money as they would make off of this, all for the same cost to the consumer, all without violating people's privacy.

    Here's a more sane proposal: when you apply for your tags, make one line on the form be the current odometer reading. Charge an additional license fee based on the mileage. Once the vehicle starts going in for smog checks, this can be corroborated by periodic reporting by the smog check station, so there's low risk of significant cheating.

    Allow people who do a substantial amount of out-of-state driving to apply for a tax credit on his/her personal income tax for driving outside the state. Require them to provide some corroborating evidence (receipts from out of state hotels or gas stations during the period in question, pay stubs proving an out-of-state job, etc.).

    By making the small percentage of people who regularly drive outside the state spend an extra ten minutes filling out their income tax forms, you save the cost of additional hardware in new vehicles, additional hardware at the pumps (the cost of which will be paid by everyone), etc. and you avoid all the privacy questions. More to the point, since all new cars sold anywhere would then have to have these devices (since car makers won't build a separate model just for Oregon, even if these GPS devices only cost $100, my plan will save almost 2 billion dollars annually nationwide in unnecessary hardware when compared with the Oregon governor's plan.

    Just to put that number in perspective, that's billion with a 'B'---enough money to bail out on the order of 20,000 home owners who are defaulting on their mortgages. Anyone in favor of something so asinine should be publicly flogged.... The people of Oregon deserve someone with better math and problem solving skills than this....

  • Re:Priorities (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grahamd0 ( 1129971 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:42PM (#26272365)

    I always thought it was hilarious that Oregon forbids people from pumping their own gas to create jobs, and also allows truckers to pull two trailers.

    You'd think promoting jobs for truck drivers, who can earn a decent living, would be more effective than inventing jobs for gas station attendants.

  • by markus_baertschi ( 259069 ) <(gro.sukram) (ta) (sukram)> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @06:11PM (#26272787)

    Over here in Europe we have seen the advantage of high gas prices lately. When the barrels went from $40 to $160 (up 400%) our gas at the pump went up from CHF 1.4 to CHF 2.0 (up 40%). Still a hike, but not something to change economics of driving dramatically. The high taxes, besides funding decent roads and non-collapsing bridges, provide a nice cushion against the volatility of the oil market.

    Of course, due to the higher price level our cars are in general smaller and more economical anyway.


  • As an Oregonian... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by VoxMagis ( 1036530 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @06:26PM (#26272959)

    Okay, first, I have to admit I didn't vote for this Governor or the guy he replaced.

    Personally, I'd love to find a way to point out that this is just 'a silly democrat thing' - but it has nothing to do with his politics.

    Someone (probably in the DMV) sold him on this idea, in the thought that they can bilk more cash out of an unsuspecting populace. Trust me, right now they are stressing the 'we aren't tracking you' idea, but if this goes through, someday down the road that too will come about, in the interest of public safety.

    This is a governor that set us up to require a prescription for OTC allergy medication because a tiny percentage of the population makes drugs with it.

    The biggest issue in all of modern US government, and my state in particular, is the eagerness to threaten to cut the important services to try to push the tax paying public to shell out more. Of course, the choices of 'important' can vary.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @06:43PM (#26273139)

    Just watch out for the sales tax on the motel room. The whole nation has got on the bandwagon of screwing the traveler with extra taxes on motels, rental cars, and all the stuff only visitors need. Now that's taxation without representation.

    That's not just Oregon: most states have ridiculous taxes on motel rooms and other things that only visitors use. It's easy to raise taxes on these things without causing an uproar from the voters.

  • by Chabil Ha' ( 875116 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @07:28PM (#26273603)

    In Texas, they have the idea of farm gas. The diesel has a red dye added and you get it at a much cheaper cost than regular diesel because you aren't driving your F350 or tractor on public roads. The dye is added so that if you're caught with it and are romping around on public roads, then you get fined.

  • by repvik ( 96666 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @07:38PM (#26273671)

    My jaw dropped when I saw that page. Until I saw "The quoted income tax rate is, except where noted, the top rate of tax: Most jurisdictions have lower rate of taxes for low levels of income."
    That was the difference between the stated 54.3% that page states and my 18% taxes paid.
    I live in Norway BTW, which arguably has one of the best healtcare systems in the world.

    So it's not a fantasy. It's a reality.

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @07:38PM (#26273679)
    In Pennsylvania, they do the reverse, the put the dye in the taxed diesel. It actually works better. It doesn't matter how much diesel the supplier has, they pay tax on a certain amount and the state monitors how much dye they use. The tricky part is that vendors who sell the untaxed stuff retail are not allowed to have pumps that are capable of dispensing directly into a vehicle (primarily accomplished by making the hose too short to reach).
  • by mmeister ( 862972 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @07:50PM (#26273793)

    Since hybrids are much lighter (to help achieve better gas mileage), they have much less wear on the road than an SUV.

    This miles traveled argument sounds "fair" when you first hear it, but the only benefit it brings is the ability for the State (and Feds) to be able to track every movement of your car. This is a bad idea. The Constitution has already been shit upon for the last 8 years. I am no longer confident it would protect me from abuse by the State Gov't and Feds.

    States are always looking to find new ways generate revenue from their citizens. I would first like a better accounting of where all the current money is being spent. It may all be valid, but they sure are generating a lot of revenue already.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @08:08PM (#26273937)

    Here's what they can do: Make the mileage tax completely optional, gas tax discount for residents who participate in the mileage tax, i.e. swipe your drivers license at the pump, or get a government "gas tax" discount card.

    Possibly the GPS device will be scanned by a RFID reader at the pump as well, and the data uploaded to government computers at the same time as residents are filling up.

    Possibly a 75% discount. They double or quadruple the gas tax for everyone else AND add a fixed fee of say a few $$$, "fill-up event tax" which is an added tax per fill-up, as well as the tax based on amount of fuel purchased, so if you don't get the waiver for paying the mileage tax, then you PAY through the nose.

    A policy like this would avoid screwing residents.

    Out of state visitors would have the option of buying one of the GPS receivers at the border and getting the same discount.

    Any vehicles leaving the state would be subject to search and immediate taxation or seizure of any surplus fuel in or about the vehicle.

    Surplus being any amount of fuel in excess of 15 gallons.

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @09:21PM (#26274591) Journal

    Nothing prevents you from doing it. Although the extra step pretty much ensures that your usage of off road fuel in a road vehicle is no longer capable of being an accident and if someone reports you or you somehow get caught, your going to be fined pretty big.

    You will likely get caught when your vehicle breaks down and a mechanic discovers your not using the right fuel or when your wife or ex gets pissed off at you and someone makes an anonymous tip. In California, they actually set up fuel checks and randomly test trucks. Especially if they are hauling heavy equipment or something that would legitimately use the off road fuels.

    The parent is actually talking about K1 (kerosene) verses #2 diesel verses off road diesel. The K1 is usually clear or pinkish purple, the #2 diesel is a greenish color and the off road gas and diesel has a red dye that takes like 5 full tanks to get rid of. Different additives like detergents or anti gels or upper cylinder lubricants can change the colors slightly. Each state might handle it a little differently but the dye colors are actually a federal distinction and they can't go in reverse (red for on road or green for Kerosene).

  • This isn't such a simple question as that.

    If you add in the average rate that Americans pay privately for the things that are included in the European tax dollar, does the comparison hold true? Most corporate employees I know here pay somewhere in the range of 5% to 10% of their income as insurance premiums for health care. The national average is actually about 7%, accounting for copays and the myriad non-covered expenses. When evaluated in that apples-to-apples context, American taxes are only lower for a select percentage at the bottom and top of the economy.

    As a driver in New York, I pay about $300+ extra each year in thinly disguised taxes, ie tolls, license and registration fees, and the occasional roadside tax-collection stop, not to mention the "tax" of legally compulsory auto insurance at cartel-controlled prices. Add in property taxes which are rarely determined democratically (democratic budget votes wherein certain administrators extort the voters by threatening important, popular programs with the axe if chosen budget initiatives are not supported; congressionally, this is called "Earmarking")

    Anyway, the whole thing is a sham. I wonder, if I lived in a place where taxes were fixed at 40% total, while it would sound high, it might be less than I pay in the US... earning 35k, I pay about 15% federal, 6% OASDI, 2% Medicare, 10% state, 9% sales, ?% fuel, $300+ (1%) licensing, 20% on my phone bill, and 7% health care... that's 50% or more, and I'm a mid to low earner. I forgot the property tax, which I don't directly pay, as a renter, but my landlord pays $4k, or 3% of his family income, per year. Ouch. And Manhattan bees pay an extra city income tax, too, plus more tolls.

    If the taxes in Europe actually were somehow higher than here, I can't see how they'd have any economy left.
  • by electrosoccertux ( 874415 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @01:47AM (#26276935)

    My jaw dropped when I saw that page. Until I saw "The quoted income tax rate is, except where noted, the top rate of tax: Most jurisdictions have lower rate of taxes for low levels of income."
    That was the difference between the stated 54.3% that page states and my 18% taxes paid.
    I live in Norway BTW, which arguably has one of the best healtcare systems in the world.

    So it's not a fantasy. It's a reality.

    And who do you think is going to be spending the R&D money to find new cures and ways to treat uncured illnesses? If America switches to universal government healthcare, then all the money spent in the industry will go to curing known illnesses and fixing people. None will be spent on R&D. So then you'll propose more government involvement for that, for sure.

    Thanks, I'd rather have my big Pharma's like Phizer blowing billions on research, because with our system there is a MARKET for new cures. Thanks to our privatized healthcare system, if there a cure developed and you have normal health insurance, the health insurance has to pay for that cure for you. That cure would never have been developed if all the money spent on medicine over here went to curing people like it does in your country. Trust me-- you don't want us moving to universal healthcare. Our government would stipulate how much it thinks the cure is worth-- and it would base that solely on the cost of production, ignoring any R&D costs. You could say bye-bye to any new cures then.

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