The Governor Wants a Mileage Tax: Why You Should Care
If you've ever wondered why there never seems to be an end to road building/re-paving/repair projects, so have I. No matter how bad the economy gets, it seems there is *always* enough money laying around to tear up perfectly adequate streets and re-pave them, to close down perfectly useful on-ramps and re-vamp them, to block lanes and close roads in an orgy of machinery and men in orange vests. A lot of money is flowing through our highway and road projects, and one might reasonably ask why we make this such a priority at the same time we shave the last few cents off programs to help senior citizens and people with disabilities. Governor Kulongoski isn't asking such questions, though. Instead, he's proposing new ways to keep the money spigot flowing toward ODOT projects now that people are buying less gas. And boy, does he have a stupid idea now.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently ran a pilot program to see whether a "mileage tax" might work better than a gas tax to fund their never-ending, winchester-mystery building projects. Their fear was that rising gas costs might lead people to use less gas, and thereby cut proceeds from the current tax. This, of course, had them deeply concerned about their fattened bottom line, since ODOT is funded through the gas tax. So they ran this pilot project around the idea of a mileage tax, and they decided it could work for them. But can it work for us?
Governor Kulongoski seems to think so. He's proposing the idea to the Oregon state legislature. What on EARTH can he be thinking???
While none of us is crazy about paying taxes, it seems to me that the gas tax is one of the very few that actually makes any sense at all. It focuses on those who use the roads to pay for the roads. All right, I think it's too high, but that's because I also think too many resources are going into road building and re-building when it is not necessary. But the thing is, a gas tax also has the important effect of rewarding those who drive low mileage cars, and penalizing people who drive big, inefficient, gas guzzling SUVs. And the importance of this cannot be over-emphasized. On a planet that is reeling from greenhouse gasses, global warming, and bloody, bloody oil wars, it would seem to me that we would NOT want to reverse this. Has Kulongoski been taking kick-backs from the American auto industry? Why on earth else would he want to see someone who drives a fuel efficient hybrid car get stuck paying the same, or MORE, in taxes than a person who chooses to trundle around in a blood-sucking, pollution-spewing, gas-guzzling Humvee??? This is exactly what the shift from a gas tax to a mileage tax will mean: Those of us who choose to drive responsible, green, efficient vehicles will see our tax burden go up, while those who choose to drive selfish, gas chugging behemoths will see their tax burden go down. This is wrong. It is the wrong planet, and certainly the wrong state for such a ridiculous proposal.
To make matters even worse, the specter of privacy violations is rampant in this proposal. Supposedly, they will know how many miles to charge us for based on "satellite technology." If that doesn't creep you out, what will? They *say* that they will respect our privacy. They *say* they will find a way to do this without necessarily tracking where each car has been. They *say* they will not track your visits to political meetings or porn shops or underground activities. Yes. That's what they *say*. It's not that they can't do this, only that they say they won't. But ...aren't these the same people who illegally wiretapped our phones and made a special back-door into our computers and logged our IP addresses and read our emails, all without our knowledge or consent? Didn't they *say* they would never do that, either? Yes, they did.
Call Kulongoski and tell him this is a stupid idea. You can reach him here:
160 State Capitol
900 Court Street
Salem, Oregon 97301-4047
Governor's Citizens' Representative Message Line
While you're at it, you might call your state representative as well, because the ball will be in their court if Kulongoski pursues this ridiculous idea.
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