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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:

MAIL
Governor Kulongoski
160 State Capitol
900 Court Street
Salem, Oregon 97301-4047

PHONE
Governor's Citizens' Representative Message Line
503.378.4582

FAX
503.378.6827

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.

I don't care 29.Dec.2008 20:30

steppin' wolf

I walk everywhere.

If you care about air, you should care 29.Dec.2008 21:18

Duh

Steppin Wolf, you missed the point.

If the gas tax is replaced by a mileage tax, then people who drive fuel efficient (but expensive) green cars will receive no economic benefit for making a good choice. A choice that benefits you, by providing more clean air and less global warming. I don't know if you noticed or not, but the ONLY thing that finally made dumbasses who bought SUVs question their decision was the economic incentive: Gas prices skyrocketed, which caused people to FINALLY drive less and FINALLY choose more fuel efficient cars. In other words, no matter how much we say we care about the planet, in the end, all we really care about, all that really motivates us, is our wallets. So if you let them replace the economic incentive to waste less gas with an incentive to waste as much gas as you want per mile, then your air (and mine) will suffer, and your planet (and mine) will get warmer and warmer.

So if you don't care, it's because you don't know what you're talking about.

We should be phasing out private vehicles 30.Dec.2008 15:51

magarulian magarulian@gmail.com

"The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation, but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism. ...The fatal mistake we have been making is to sacrifice every other form of transportation to the private motorcar - and to offer, as the only long-distance alternative, the airplane."
Lewis Mumford, The Highway and the City, 1963.

"Automobiles insulate man not only from the environment, but from human contact as well. They permit only limited types of interaction, usually competitive, aggressive, and destructive. If people are to be brought together again, given a chance to get acquainted with each other and involved in nature, some fundamental solutions must be found to the problems posed by the automobile."
Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension, 1966.

"The automobile, which began as a transportation convenience, has become a bloody tyrant - and it is the responsibility of the Park Service, as well as that of everyone else concerned with preserving both wilderness and civilization, to begin a campaign of resistance. The automotive combine has almost succeeded in strangling our cities; we need not let it also destroy our national parks."
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, 1968.

"Soon we will see traffic jams of automobiles that don't use oil as fuel; so what? ...A vision of millions of Americans driving even solar-powered cars is a vision of people disunited, solitary, debt-ridden, obese, and bleary."
Peter Gelman, Oregon Cycling Magazine, April 2003.

"Sprawl-based, automobile-dependent living is a root cause of widespread overweight and obesity, as well as a host of chronic diseases."
Joel S. Hirschhorn, Another Lapse of Journalistic Integrity at The New York Times, September 28, 2004.

"All cars - hybrid, electric, biodiesel or gas-guzzling - contribute to urban sprawl; all cars demand asphalt-paved roads and parking lots; and all cars require polluting and resource-depleting industries for their production and upkeep."
Robert Magarulian, 2004.

Privacy 30.Dec.2008 18:46

mh

As this article says, do not underestimate the privacy issues here. From what I've read, you'd be charged different rates based on what roads you use and at what times of the day you used them. That means they'd have to be able to know exactly where you drove, how far you drove and at what times. That pretty much means Big Brother's got you in their scope wherever and whenever you use your vehicle. Does anyone - in this day and age - really think the government (or private business like insurance companies, for instance) won't try to use that for purposes other than what they claim here?

Thanks for this article. I'd read about this when it was a proposed pilot project of ODOT a year or so back. I hadn't heard anywhere else any news of whether it was considered a success or not (as I remember there were several HUGE - and at the time, unresolved - issues regarding secure and accurate data collection and dissemination, etc.), let alone that Kulongoski has been pushing it.

This is truly an illogical idea that's made infinitely worse by the substantial potential for abuse to our most basic rights of privacy.

you already have no privacy 31.Dec.2008 03:18

tagged animal wearing a radio collar

This would be more persuasive if everybody hadn't already made this same sell-out compromise with our cell phones.

They ALREADY know where everybody is, where we go, when we go there, how long we stay, etc. etc. etc.

We all said "well it's not ideal ... but it's so convenient."

The only difference is there is no convenience value to a "mileage tax" that is really more like a bunch of toll roads where they bill you at the end of the year instead of at a gate booth.

A "mileage tax" would be where they check your odometer every year and charge you for the difference since last time.

I don't know why they don't at least just charge a percentage of the dollar price instead of a flat amount per gallon.