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US Contemplating 'Vehicle Miles Traveled' Tax 1306

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-that-california dept.
dawgs72 writes "This week the Congressional Budget Office released a report saying that taxing people based on how many miles they drive is a possible option for raising new revenues, and that these taxes could be used to offset the costs of highway maintenance. The proposed tax would be enforced through the use of electronic metering devices installed on all vehicles. The mileage tax is being considered instead of an increase in the gas tax in order to tax hybrids, EVs, and conventional automobiles equally."
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US Contemplating 'Vehicle Miles Traveled' Tax

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  • by rwa2 (4391) * on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:07PM (#35613048) Homepage Journal

    So, um, how are they going to split that between county, state, and federally-funded roads?

    Infrastructure is infrastructure. Everyone benefits from having it. Putting this kind of administrative overhead on it just makes it more expensive *and* takes away the benefit.

    I think the real problem is that people mostly can't afford to live close to where they work. This leads to a lot of inefficiency, as they waste lots of time and energy driving back and forth from their cheap suburbs to the higher rent districts that pay just barely enough to survive if you live a neighborhood a tier or two away. Relatively cheap transportation sorta creates this situation, but there has got to be better ways to solve this than by making transportation more expensive with all of this metering equipment.

    Make cities denser, cheaper, more accessible to families with better schools & playgrounds, etc. Get rid of suburban sprawl by zoning more parks and greenways. Maybe build some summer cottages / timeshares so people can still get away "to the country". Done! All the other countries are doing it :-P

    • by morgauxo (974071) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:30PM (#35613412)
      So the government would be getting into the timeshare business then?

      Also, how do you keep crime down as you increase population density? The most populated places near me are also the scariest.

      Would you offer people money to move? I'm not just talking moving costs, I'm talking mortgage buyouts. A mass migration from the suburbs to the cities would break any family that still owed a significant amount on their mortgage. Who would buy their houses? They can't all become government owned timeshares can they?
    • by metlin (258108) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:30PM (#35613416) Journal

      The real problem is that people want sprawling houses, and are not comfortable living in smaller places.

      I mean, why bother living in a small apartment downtown when I can get a sprawling, waste of space out in the 'burbs, and drive 20 miles each way?

      People raise kids in NYC and in other big cities. You can just put your kids in a private school, and they can take the train or the bus to get to where they want.

      No, I think this is a great idea. Some of us ride bikes and take buses and trains. And we do not live out in suburbs, and even live in neighborhoods which are well connected with good, public transportation.

      • by 0123456 (636235) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:35PM (#35613508)

        The real problem is that people want sprawling houses, and are not comfortable living in smaller places.

        And how is that a problem?

        Ah, because governments don't want people getting what they want, they want to force the proles to live in Stalinist apartment blocks while only the Polibureau get houses in the country.

        • Well that's one world view... I'm pretty sure that's not what anyone was really suggesting though. It was an assertion that a large representation within the American culture have a preference towards highly inefficient lifestyles. For instance it is not uncommon for people here to work in urban centers, yet live well outside in rural areas. Each day they commute--typically driving their own vehicles, usually not very efficient ones such as trucks and SUVs--seldom car pool, and do so in excess of 50 mil
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The real problem is that people want sprawling houses, and are not comfortable living in smaller places.

          And how is that a problem?

          Ah, because governments don't want people getting what they want, they want to force the proles to live in Stalinist apartment blocks while only the Polibureau get houses in the country.

          People who drive large distances to work use lots of government subsidized resources. More cars on the road means we have to build and maintain larger highways. We need more emergency service providers (EMS, police, firefighters) to cover a larger area. Our economy becomes more sensitive to oil prices, because people who drive an hour to work each way suddenly feel poorer when oil prices rise. America's foreign policy has to be crafted to ensure we can get oil as a reasonable cost, and the price of the

        • by erroneus (253617)

          I kinda get what you are feeling, but in reality, the government DOES want people getting what they want. The happiest people are the easiest to control and manage. This is true in prison as it is true in society. "No way" all you like, but happy people don't protest, don't demonstrate, don't riot and certainly don't attempt to oust their leaders from office.

        • by green1 (322787) on Friday March 25, 2011 @03:58PM (#35615856)

          No, the problem is that people living in those sprawling houses aren't usually willing to pay the true costs to do so.

          I have no problem with people having the sprawling mansion in the country. What I have a problem with is that I have to pay for them to do so. I pay the same amount per month for garbage collection, recycling, water, and sewer that they do, but the cost to deliver those services actually costs less to my house closer in than it does to theirs further out.

          This is why my taxes go up every single year, and by more than inflation. It's because the taxes paid by those in the new communities on the outskirts of the city do not cover the costs associated with providing them the services, so they raise everyone's taxes to compensate.

          Live wherever you like, live in whatever type of house you like. But don't pass your costs on to me.

      • by garcia (6573) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:37PM (#35613544) Homepage

        Because my "sprawling" 1280 sq ft. home in the suburbs (where I ride the bus 20 miles each way) costs me $723/month whereas rent would be over $1000/month and a mortgage would be well in excess of $1000/month in the city?

        • Using the bus for a 20mi commute isn't the same as the 50mi+ driving an SUV each way person, which is very common, and what is usually being spoken to when such statements are made. Perhaps the GP is being a bit extreme but American's do have a bit of a waste problem.
        • by hoggoth (414195) on Friday March 25, 2011 @02:28PM (#35614436) Journal

          > Because my "sprawling" 1280 sq ft. home in the suburbs (where I ride the bus 20 miles each way) costs me $723/month whereas rent would be over $1000/month and a mortgage would be well in excess of $1000/month in the city?

          Where is this? Idaho?
          Here in New York rent or mortgage is certainly over $3,000/mo.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          But that's because there's a supply-demand issue. Everyone wants to live in the city, but there is limited housing.

          Over here in Germany, the number of multi-family housing (apartment blocks) are tremendous, and all over the place in the cities. Most every shop, store, building, has tons of residential housing (varying from 1, 2, 3 or 4 bdrs) on top. And because there is so much available, it's really cheap to be living in dense housing in the city, close to the trains, and the parks, and the shops (which

      • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:47PM (#35613716) Homepage Journal

        People who cavalierly wast resources should be paying this burden, not us people who are stuck with commutes, but thoughtful enough to buy vehicles which are misers on gas consumption.

        I'm confounded when I drive through suburban neighborhoods and see 80% of the homes have at least one Pickup/SUV in the driveway - most of these are never going to be used for construction or off-road. They're the modern equivalent of the Station Wagon. If gas is so cheap these people are commuting with these, and I see them in large percentages on my daily commute, then gas is still too cheap. Get off that addiction, people!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Joce640k (829181)

          This, The sooner gas hits $20/gallon, the better.

        • If (and it's a very if) the thinking behind this tax is to better recoup costs from people using public roads, it makes sense.

          I haven't seen anything indicating that the energy efficient vehicles cause less wear & tear on roadways than gas guzzlers (though it logically makes sense with their lighter weight).

          If the people are wasting a common resource then by all means tax the resource. If that resource is gas then tax gas. If that resource is the condition of the roadway itself, then we should be

      • Uhh... the problem they think they're resolving with this is that vehicles are expected to continue using ever smaller quantities of taxed fuel, even no petroleum at all in some circumstance. Do you really believe that they'll stop at millage meters on cars if they find people are using bicycles and/or public transportation?

        I do think it's a great way to level the playing field between gas guzzlers (the ones that tear up the road the most) and more efficient vehicles. How dare the less wasteful, lighter

      • by AxemRed (755470) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:54PM (#35613840)
        Not all of us can afford a decent quality apartment downtown, let alone a private school for our kids. And not all of us live in cities with decent public transit. I live in a house in the suburbs mostly because it was my best option for my money.
      • by Infernal Device (865066) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:56PM (#35613872)

        The real problem is that people want sprawling houses, and are not comfortable living in smaller places.

        That's a pretty gross generalization.

        I mean, why bother living in a small apartment downtown when I can get a sprawling, waste of space out in the 'burbs, and drive 20 miles each way?

        This depends on the conditions in the downtown area. In my experience, a house in the suburbs is considerably cheaper than an apartment downtown.

        People raise kids in NYC and in other big cities. You can just put your kids in a private school, and they can take the train or the bus to get to where they want.

        Only if you're made of money. The vast majority of people would not be able to afford a private school for their children.

        No, I think this is a great idea. Some of us ride bikes and take buses and trains. And we do not live out in suburbs, and even live in neighborhoods which are well connected with good, public transportation.

        Terrific. Now bring that to my city and we might sign on to it. But don't hold your breath - the politics behind public transportation are such that the people who actually need are usually the ones who can't afford it and politicians are loathe to do anything that actually affects rich people.

      • by Shivetya (243324) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:58PM (#35613924) Homepage Journal

        I can leave doors open all day, I have left windows on the lower level of my home open all day, simply because of where I live which is the suburbs

        Big city schools, yeah that is where its at, if at is graduating a small portion of your students and generally getting stomped by most schools in surrounding counties for GPA/SAT and graduation rates. Top it off with more chances for gang activity and I think you begin to see why people might not want to live in them.

        You live your life and let the rest live theirs. NYC is special because of rent control and the like which has gone further than many other cities. Or perhaps you would prefer San Francisco which has nicely driven nearly all blacks from the town by pricing them out of the mark with new building rules and restrictions on what can go where.

        Cities work for some people, they don't work for everyone. Atlanta is almost to racial parity but is that a good thing? It is a simple reason really, the city is getting too expensive for the poor to live in it and the poor are majority minority here. Yet people say "move to the city" which brings more yuppies who tear down or gut nice row homes jacking the costs to live in the neighborhood

        Back to the story. It was to be expected with the push for better mileage vehicles that the method of taxation must change. Why they need meters I will never know, they can just do inspections and check your mileage. Of course with meters and GPS they can tell which roads you used. It all comes down to one thing.

        Instead of spending the money they get and doing well with it they are forever looking for new sources and usually spending it before they get it
        .

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by StikyPad (445176)

        The real problem is that cities offer higher crime, worse public schools, more noise, less privacy, worse traffic -- all that and a higher $/sqft to boot. If I wanted to live in a claustrophobia inducing space, listen to all of my neighbors' arguments, enjoy little or no natural surroundings, fight over parking spots, and do my laundry off-site, I'd live at the office.

        Cities are great if you're young enough that the social life makes up for it, or rich enough that you can isolate yourself from the downside

    • by bberens (965711) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:34PM (#35613478)
      We already pay for infrastructure with fuel taxes and by paying for vehicle registrations. If we need more money for infrastructure we have the facilities in place to raise revenue for infrastructure: raise fuel and registration taxes. This is good because it encourages energy efficiency and smaller vehicles for the consumer (which also cause less wear and tear). This is just a case of some vendor making a product and trying to get millions of units sold and/or more big brother. Take your pick.
      • by Golddess (1361003) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:54PM (#35613838)

        This is just a case of some vendor making a product and trying to get millions of units sold and/or more big brother.

        Oh no doubt, as there is already a perfectly good method* of getting the kind of information they require. But I think you missed a part in TFS.

        The mileage tax is being considered instead of an increase in the gas tax in order to tax hybrids, EVs, and conventional automobiles equally.

        *Vehicles already have odometers, and don't all states require periodic emissions inspections? If they really wanted to tax based on actual miles traveled, they can just copy down the mileage then.

        • by frosty_tsm (933163) on Friday March 25, 2011 @02:23PM (#35614350)

          The mileage tax is being considered instead of an increase in the gas tax in order to tax hybrids, EVs, and conventional automobiles equally.

          *Vehicles already have odometers, and don't all states require periodic emissions inspections? If they really wanted to tax based on actual miles traveled, they can just copy down the mileage then.

          I find this reason ironic because for half a decade they were handing out incentives for hybrid owners. But that's just how government works I guess.

    • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:42PM (#35613634)

      Get rid of suburban sprawl by zoning more parks and greenways.

      Hmm then you won't have any space in the cities for people to live. Plus as one of those that lives in suburbia, I like having a backyard to bbq in, grow a garden, throw a ball with my kid or sit on my patio watching the birds in my birdfeeder.

      If I lived in an apartment/condo highrise, I won't have those aspects to the quality of my life. Sure there are rooftop gardens and community parks. But when you live in a highrise with a 1000 other people, how much space on the rooftop garden can you reasonably get? Btw, I also have windows on all four sides of my house, which is wonderful for the indoor plants without using grow lights.

      Btw, what are the prices of a condo in NYC that overlook Central Park? I bet it's quite a bit more than my humble home in suburbia.

  • Double dipping? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Seumas (6865) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:08PM (#35613052)

    Isn't this already covered by the gas tax, which is inherently incurred on a "per mile" (gallon, really) basis?

    Anything that can be taxed, will. Those things which can not be taxed will be fined.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Phleg (523632)
      Gas taxes pay for a frighteningly small percentage of the cost of roads. The lion's share is usually from property taxes.
    • Depending on your state & locality, not all of your motor fuels tax is going towards road construction & repair. In North Carolina, about 25-30% of that money is being diverted into the general fund.

      So when a politician calls for an increase in tax "because we need good roads", ask him where the rest of the money he collected went that was supposed to have gone to replacing bridges in imminent danger of collapse.

      Chip H.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:10PM (#35613070) Journal

    Shouldn't we be encouraging people to use less gas? An excise tax on gasoline is an excellent way to do so.

  • Why federal, again? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordLimecat (1103839) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:10PM (#35613074)

    I ask this quesiton sincerely-- I honestly would like an answer from those who agree with this.

    If I lived in Arkansas, and I only drive on local roads in state, and I do 3-4000 miles a year doing so,... why would this be justified by either Constitution or 10th amendment? I dont mean to troll or attack, but I cannot conceive of why this should be federally managed. I am not against seatbelt laws or think that all regulation or social programs are evil, but honestly, shouldnt there be a limit to what the Fed deals with?

    • by Batmunk2000 (1878016) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:13PM (#35613138)

      Constitution? We still have one of those?

      • by slick7 (1703596)

        Constitution? We still have one of those?

        We need a tax on these congressional meatheads and their inane laws that line their pockets, about 30 to 50 years would be appropriate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smelch (1988698)
      Federally managed because the federal government is what people want. Largely, the United States seems to want a large, powerful, federal government and not respect the different cultures of different states. This is why the popular vote fiasco with President Bush was so easy for people to harp on. They no longer recognize or respect the separation of states. Further, the Federal Government uses taxes it levies on people to redistribute to state governments specifically for that kind of infrastructure. In a
    • by geekoid (135745)

      "shouldnt there be a limit to what the Fed deals with?"
      of course, but tlak to your state. They do NOT have to take the funds the Feds offer.

      People like to blame the feds, but it's the states they give power to the feds.

      To answer you immediate question:
      Even if you do not use interstate or roads maintain or built with fed money (you do) , you still benefit from the systems. You get stuff delivered to you with those roads, companies can operate because of those roads, transportation is more efficient with thos

  • by bratloaf (1287954) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:12PM (#35613110) Journal

    OK, so let me get this straight. They want to create a GIANT system with many layers of government, to take more money based on actual miles driven. But we already have that - called a gasoline tax. At least with the gas tax I have an incentive to buy a more fuel-efficient car if I must commute (I must, far too). With this I would have much less. I think this is just to avoid being the "bad guys" that raise the gas tax. I thought one of the points of the gas taxes was to encourage efficiency.

  • See that? The government will create a new market [wikipedia.org] by mandating the use of electronic metering devices, AND bring in more tax revenue!

    Win-win!

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:13PM (#35613126)

    That being, that they (State and federal governments) are spending too much money already.

    How about they do something a little more useful, like impose a moratorium on new expenditures until the economic crisis is over?

    Oh dear-- I just imagined government workers being cautious with other people's money! How silly of me!

    • by etymxris (121288)

      Taxes have been cut multiple times since the early 80s, while spending has increased. I'm all for cutting taxes, AFTER we get our spending under control. The govt should only be able to cut taxes if receipts > expenses AND there is no current deficit. It'll be a long time before our budgets are balanced unless we lay off the entire military or let poor people start dying in the streets. Had we been a little more responsible over the past 30 years none of this would have been an issue.

      • Had they not cut taxes on the rich since Reagan this would not be a problem. Rich people don't like to use their own money to pay for their governing the rest of us.
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:28PM (#35613378)

      Let me start by saying, flat out, that I'm not trying to troll or start a war here, but what exactly would you have them cut?

      It's a fact that most fiscal conservatives, when asked what they would have the government cut can't name a single program to cut that is both A) large enough to have an impact, and B) not political suicide to cut. Would you take benefits away from people on a fixed income, who were promised and rely on that income and those benefits to make it through the month? Would you cut spending on military and defense? Would you tell young people that Social Security won't be there for them when they are elderly, and then tell them to keep paying in anyway? Cut funding for sciences and eduction? NASA?

      It's very easy to say "we should be spending less". It's a lot harder to identify areas to be cut that will make a difference and that people aren't so passionate about that the cuts won't be reversed in 4 years or less.

      • by EMB Numbers (934125) on Friday March 25, 2011 @02:18PM (#35614250)

        We have a larger navy than the next 11 countries combined, and 9 of those are our allies.
        Step 1) Reduce navy to the save of the next 5 countries combined.

        We have more agriculture department employees than there are farmers.
        Step 2) Eliminate all farm subsidies and cut the agriculture department to the bone.

        We fight too many wars
        Step 3) Stop fighting wars and eliminate supplemental war expenditures.

        Stop fighting the "war on drugs" and every other "war on..." that we have been loosing since the 1960s. Get over it already.
        Step 4) Stop prosecuting and start taxing vices and victimless crimes.

        I currently work as a defense contractor, and I know first that the government is incompetent and defense spending is largely wasteful.

      • by Loosifur (954968)

        Well, it's easy to reduce the budget by simply decreasing the amount by which existing funding for annual budget items is increased. Easy logically, that is, not necessarily politically. It's not like the choice is between eliminating Social Security and halving the federal budget, or increasing spending by adding services and creating new government. The third choice is to simply maintain current spending.

        That said, as a "fiscal conservative", I would change Social Security at the very least by implementin

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Aside from the DoD, the government really isn't spending too much money. The real issue is that they aren't taxing sufficiently to maintain a viable government without going into debt. Things like roads, schools, law enforcement and other things cost money, you can't continually to cut them without damaging or eliminating the tax base.

      But, the other bit of it is that the voters reward the politicians that are willing to go into hock to start pointless wars and cut taxes for the rich and for corporations. We

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spike2131 (468840)

      like impose a moratorium on new expenditures until the economic crisis is over?

      Great idea! Slow down economic activity until economic activity speeds up!

      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        It is a fallacy that government subsidies enrich the economy, at least as far as government income is concerned.

        Example-- I, as the government, give a subsidy to an energy company so that they can provide the necessary infrastructure my population requires. The energy company accepts my subsidy with sweaty palms, then promptly invests that money in an overseas venture. "We can't possibly track individual dollars as they move through our enterprise!" they proclaim. By "pure coincidence," a large sum of mone

    • That being, that they (State and federal governments) are spending too much money already.

      Do you offer this as fact or opinion?

      How about they do something a little more useful, like impose a moratorium on new expenditures until the economic crisis is over?

      Funny thing is, we can always afford wars half-way around the world and tax cuts for billionaires, but can't afford to keep the country running.

      And that's with a "liberal" in the White House.

    • Oh dear - you just imagined a government providing no safety net to citizens and no confidence to investors until some vaguely-defined point in the future! How silly of you!

      State and federal governments are not spending too much money - if anything, they're not spending enough (and not only that but they're taxing the wrong people to get it). The job of the government is to provide for the security and well-being of its citizens. Cutting spending during a massive economic downturn is absolutely no way to do that job. Providing help through stimulus and job creation is.

      I swear, it's like the only lesson all the small-government starve-the-beast meatheads learned from the Great Depression is to have a couple of wars when your country is going to shit.
  • by yerM)M (720808) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:23PM (#35613286) Homepage
    "these taxes could be used to offset the costs of highway maintenance...The mileage tax is being considered instead of an increase in the gas tax in order to tax hybrids, EVs, and conventional automobiles equally."

    If this were really the case then the gasoline tax is both a great proxy for miles driven and the weight of the vehicle (heavier vehicles consume more gasoline and also damage roads more per mile). It also fosters the purchase of lighter, more fuel efficient vehicles.
  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:28PM (#35613364) Journal
    It's called an odometer.
  • by unitron (5733) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @06:12AM (#35620830) Homepage Journal

    ...Just tax tires.

    The more miles you drive, the sooner you have to replace your tires, and the more tax revenue they get, regardless of your means of propulsion.

    And as a side benefit, the kind of stupid, potentially unsafe behavior that wears out tires more quickly will financially penalize the idiots doing it even further.

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