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Oregon Extends Push To Track, Tax Drivers Per Mile 658

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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  • by Specter ( 11099 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:40PM (#45203177) Journal

    why we're trying to over-complicate this? Take the odometer reading at annual inspection and be done with it.

    Will there be corner cases where someone gets screwed under this system? Sure.

    Is it worth all the trouble, expense, and privacy violations of being 100% perfect when 80% is good enough? No. Not even a little.

  • by stewsters ( 1406737 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:40PM (#45203181)
    "I am hardly a tin foil hat wearing type but, the problem with this is that like every other means to create databases that track/document individuals or groups, they will eventually end up being mined for data that will likely violate your right to privacy. "

    The top comment in that link to the California link is spot on. I just wish I could go back in time and tell him how deep the NSA rabbit hole goes.

    http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=139566&cid=11681212 [slashdot.org]
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@nosPAM.hackish.org> on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:40PM (#45203191)

    If the intent is that people should pay some amount per mile to cover the cost of road maintenance, just set the per-gallon gas tax equal to $desired_revenue_per_mile / average_mpg. This has the same overall effect as setting a direct per-mile tax, without the tracking nonsense.

    This will be "unfair" compared to a mileage-tracking system in that people with more fuel-efficient cars will pay less than their share, and people with less fuel-efficient cars will pay more. But that seems reasonable from the perspective of pricing negative externalities: maybe people who use more gas per mile should be taxed more per mile.

  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:41PM (#45203213)


    They could check the odometer reading when you get your annual inspection.
    Or when you get reregister your car. If the tax is reasonably small, people won't try to avoid it.

  • Meh. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:41PM (#45203219)

    Use taxes are aboutas fair as you're going to get.

    Someone gets screwed in ever model, but you're going to have to break a few eggs.

    You could avoid the monitoring if you wanted. Whomever does car inspections up there already knows how many miles the average Oregonian drives - and knows how many miles you drove since your last registrations if you have a history. Bill you your projected taxes based on average or previous driving history, and then fix any overages/underages in your next registration. Set a floor or a cap on the whole tax or on underages/overages if you think it makes for a better tax plan. ....and you can do it all without installing a black box.

  • Partisan BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:44PM (#45203275) Homepage

    As an Oregonian I can say right away, this is a partisan biased post. It isn't the big bad Government floating this idea to take yer moneys. Rather, we have lots and lots of more efficient vehicles, and there is a strong cultural push to move away from Big Oil. So we want to have our tax structure set up so that it is ready for that; if everybody bought a hybrid today, next year almost no road repairs would get done, because we wouldn't have the tax revenue. And with the same number of miles driven, there would be the exact same need for revenue. So if we can succeed in tying those related things together, then we'll have a forwards-looking tax code.

    As for the meters, that is just for a pilot program the real program will not use that, it will use odometer checks. If you've ever lived in Oregon, the idea that we'd require GPS trackers is really funny. Left, right, center, nobody would support that here. And we have well trained politicians because when they do something weird, we just put it on the ballot and over-rule them. And in the State Legislature, people who pushed bills that got overturned by the voters get primaried out... every single time! That is how you do it, people.

    Note to editors: if the story is running on foxnews, you're pushing a biased partisan version that won't have the facts.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:47PM (#45203315) Journal

    I predicted this kind of crap 20 years ago when I saw what the Netherlands did with LPG cars -- they slapped a tax on it such that you had to drive 20km a year to break even.

    This supports the theory they just want the money, and environmental concerns are a red herring.

    Never forget that parsimonious theory: they just want your money so they can turn around and spend it on you to your, ummm, cheers?

    "But...but how are they supposed to pay for roads?". Thus do you fall into their trap. It's about encouraging behaviors to ameliorate the looming end of the world, isn't it?

    How's that theory holding up vs. this one?

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:51PM (#45203379) Journal

    The last one is the one I care about.

    When did we stop counting the cost of government intrusion into our daily lives? When did people stop dismissing that sort of thing as flatly unacceptable? Is our need to try to force our neighbors to live the way we think in right so strong?

    I shudder to think what this newfound love of intrusive government would turn into if the religious right retook the reigns of power. The same power given the government to turn everyone into good little progressives won't suddenly vanish if next the government wants to turn you into good little worshippers.

  • by jmauro ( 32523 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:52PM (#45203409)

    Even easier. Raise the gas tax. It'll increase revenue, easier to administer, and encourage even less use of gas.

    Until we reach a world where we use zero gas to transport, this makes the most sense, since gas taxes are both a rough proxy for miles traveled and encourages less fuel use.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:56PM (#45203475)

    They can put in a tracking device when they pay for:

      - the device
      - the power it draws
      - the added gas the weight requires
      - and a per mile fee for access to my private life

    Or when ever they pass a law requiring it. No sense getting up on your hind legs and thumping your chest (while posting as AC),
    because as soon as its required you know damn well you will install it.

  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @01:58PM (#45203499) Homepage Journal
    Remember, there has hardly ever been a law by the govt (state or federal) that hasn't usually in the future, been happily expanded or applied to activities and situations that were not the original intent of said law.

    I remember in my state, when they advertised that the "new" seatbelt laws would not be primary reason for pulling a motorist over, they could only ticket you for not wearing a seatbelt IF they pulled you over for something else, and noticed you didn't have one on.

    I think most people see the recent "Click-it-or-Ticket" ads on tv where they definitely say they'll pull you over if they see you not wearing a seatbelt.

    Whether you agree with this (I wear my seatbelt)...this is a quick example of saying one thing to worn a law in with the public, and then soon expanding and changing it to allow more intrusion into your life.

    Hell, these days the RICO act is being used in new imaginative ways not pictured when it was passed...and that's an old well known law structure.

    I can surely see this tracking that is supposedly anonymous now....to be expanded (maybe with help of the Bluetooth article yesterday) to be used for real time tracking, I mean, would that be useful during an Amber Alert???

    Golly gee...remember that both child abuse and terrorism are the new keys to the Constitution, and surely we'd be willing to trade a little more privacy for the sake of the children being abducted by terrorists, wouldn't we?


  • by TWiTfan ( 2887093 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:04PM (#45203617)

    Or they could just do like almost every other state in the Union and just PASS A SALES TAX. This is an example of the kind of shit that happens when you don't have an equitable and sane tax system and put too many eggs in one basket. By relying way too much on the gas tax instead of a more balanced approach, Oregon fucked itself. They encouraged people to use less gas alright (a good thing), but now they have to come up with crazy shit like this law to replace it.

    Either cut costs or pass a small sales tax, assholes. Slapping some weird device on everyone's car is NOT the sane approach to the problem.

  • Re:Makes no sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TWiTfan ( 2887093 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:07PM (#45203657)

    Or they could pass a sales tax, like almost every other state in the U.S. Sure a lot of people would object, but would you rather have some weird device attached to your car instead?

  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:11PM (#45203733) Journal

    Yeah, because the (D) would NEVER expand upon (R) ideas of bigger more intrusive government at all (or visa-versa) ..../sarcasm.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:15PM (#45203799)

    I'm willing to wager that if they tried that tack, the smug little hippies who suggested this little tracking device would quickly want it shut down.

    I don't think it's the smug little hippies that are pushing for this -- they are already driving high MPG hybrids or Electric vehicles and enjoy making the gas guzzlers pay higher taxes.

    As a smug hippie, I'd rather see gas taxes rise proportional to the average MPG of cars on the road. The higher the average MPG, the higher the gas tax, keeping revenue constant, and making low mileage cars less and less attractive. A weight based tax can be added to car registrations so EV and Hybrid owners aren't off the hook for road maintenance costs. Gasoline powered vehicles aren't going away for decades so maybe in 15 years they'll have to look at a mileage based tax again (and if self-driving cars become commonplace. they can self-report their mileage).

  • by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:18PM (#45203861)
    Since when is it the "religious right" that wants to track people...in OREGON. I was recently told (on Slashdot) that even religious people in Oregon are careful not to identify themselves as religious. I can assure you that if this is coming from Oregon, it's more likely to come from Greenpeacers.
  • Re:Partisan BS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Atrox Canis ( 1266568 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:19PM (#45203873)

    Thank you for the additional information. This seems reasonable.

    Note to editors: if the story is running on foxnews, you're pushing a biased partisan version that won't have the facts.

    Note to Aighearach: if the story is running on MSNBC, you're hearing biased, paritsan version that won't have the facts. FTFY

  • "Driving less" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roninmagus ( 721889 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:21PM (#45203889)
    "...as Americans drive less" Isn't the fuel tax meant to cover roads and etc, whose maintenance is at least loosely tied to their actual use? Therefore, if Americans drive less, why is more tax money necessary? This is just a grab for general ledger, nothing else.
  • by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:23PM (#45203935)
    In California, we use it for smog reduction, to ensure that cars haven't become polluters.
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:44PM (#45204293) Journal

    Poorer people have to life further away from major city centers due to housing costs.


  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:44PM (#45204303)

    Cars are renewed every 2 years in Oregon and I suspect a lot of cars change hands during a 2 year period. Who ends up being responsible for the tax?

    I don't know how titles work in Oregon, but I have to report the current odometer reading when I sell a car in California. Even if that's not required in Oregon, it seems like a simple way to take care of change in ownership.

  • by qzjul ( 944600 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:49PM (#45204393) Homepage
    Sure, weight x distance is generally fairer than just direct gas usage. But if we're going to go there, why not do it properly?

    Damage to infrastructure is proportional to the 4th power of weight [ucdavis.edu]; thus, we should probably tax something like

    ([miles travelled]/1000miles)*([vehicle weight]/1500lbs)^4

    for vehicle registration. That would take into account the proper damage.

    The average american drives 13476 miles [dot.gov] and the average fleet curb weight (in 2004, latest i could quickly find) was 3239 lbs [nhtsa.gov]; this would give a result of $293 for registration. If you drove the same amount in a vehicle half that, you'd pay like $17, and if you drove a vehicle twice that weight you'd pay $4466.

    That would take into account proper damage incurred on infrastructure.
  • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @02:51PM (#45204425)
    No one is complaining about the taxes. They are complaining about changing the law in a way that could easily lead into tracking the movements of individuals. Perhaps, you see the Slashdot Libertarians as simple-minded because you don't understand what they are saying.
  • by srmalloy ( 263556 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @03:05PM (#45204665) Homepage

    Actually, if you are working off the premise that gasoline taxes go towards maintenance of the roads, to offset the damage caused by those vehicles, then there should be no taxes on gasoline.

    Leaving aside issues of axle weight and the wear on the road infrastructure, every time I take my car in for its smog check, the mileage is recorded along with the VIN and engine number. That happens every other year, and averaging that distance across the interval since the last smog check would give an average miles per day, which produces an annual miles-driven value for a per-mile tax without any ability to track the location of the vehicle. And for the inevitable 'but this doesn't account for the car being driven out of state' objections, neither does the proposed mileage meters; you can't tell where the car is being driven without being able to track where the car is. And this data is already being collected; there is no additional recordkeeping involved.

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @03:07PM (#45204679)
    Well, you know, maybe we should wait until vehicles that do not use gasoline and/or diesel are a significant portion of the cars on the road in order to try to come up with a solution. Of course, we all know the answer to that. If we do that, the solution might not give us an excuse to put a tracking device in every vehicle.
  • by geminidomino ( 614729 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @03:22PM (#45204901) Journal

    Why? Does the milage-based tax somehow imply the tax on the fuel itself would go down?

    Don't bet on it. The only thing the government is less likely let go of once they have it in their hands, than power, is money.

    Remember that Spanish-American war (1898) telephone tax? They held onto that for over 100 years.

  • by countach74 ( 2484150 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @05:23PM (#45206497)

    Yes we do have the power to change the system. Voting is not going to get that done, though. The only way to make any real change is through education of the general populace as to *what* the problems are. That's hard to do, but as you said, just because it's hard doesn't mean we shouldn't try. People get the government they deserve and right now, we deserve this government, sad to say.

    Btw, nice sig.

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