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Government Transportation Technology

Oregon Lawmakers Propose Mileage Tax On Fuel Efficient Vehicles 686

Posted by samzenpus
from the you'll-waste-like-the-rest-of-us dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Facing a $10 billion revenue shortfall for transportation financing, the Oregon Legislature is expected to consider a bill to require drivers with a vehicle getting at least 55 miles per gallon of gasoline to pay a per-mile tax after 2015 to offset the loss in tax revenue for fuel efficient cars at the gas pump, where the government has traditionally collected money to build and fix roads. Oregonians currently pay 30 cents per gallon, a tax that is automatically added at the pump, but as cars become more fuel efficient and alternative fuel sources are identified, state officials project gas tax revenue will decline. 'Everybody uses the road, and if some pay and some don't, then that's an unfair situation that's got to be resolved,' says Jim Whitty of the Department of Transportation. Opponents of the Oregon proposal say it will hurt a new industry. 'It will be one more obstacle that the industry and auto dealers will face in convincing consumers to buy these new cars,' says Paul Cosgrove, a lobbyist for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Other states, such as Nevada and Washington, are also looking at a per-mile charge and a Washington law that would charge electric car owners an annual fee goes into effect in February. Oregon did a pilot study of the mileage tax (PDF) where participants paid 1.56 cents per mile and got a credit for any gasoline tax they paid at the pump. Although initial media portrayals of the system were almost uniformly negative, 91% of test participants preferred the mileage tax to paying gas taxes."
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Oregon Lawmakers Propose Mileage Tax On Fuel Efficient Vehicles

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  • How do they do it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Thursday January 03, 2013 @08:49PM (#42469789)

    Without GPS, how do they know when you leave the state? And with GPS isn't that a serious privacy issue?

    Here in Washington State, they are planning a $100 / year fee for these types of vehicles.

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Maybe you have to include the odometer reading when you file your car's property tax or registration or something?

    • by Ichijo (607641)

      Without GPS, how do they know when you leave the state?

      That's easy. If you've driven an unusually high number of miles without filling up in-state, you were probably out of state.

      • Without GPS, how do they know when you leave the state?

        That's easy. If you've driven an unusually high number of miles without filling up in-state, you were probably out of state.

        And you think the State Department of Revenue will be happy with that explanation, and "let you slide" on paying up for the miles you can not prove were not driven in-state?

        That's not the way taxing bodies work.

        The system *must* be cut-and-dried, the miles driven in and out of state must be absolutely confirmed for the tax to be fare, and the only real way to do that (if the tax is based on miles) is GPS.

        The other option is what Washington is doing, which is a flat $100.

        Keep in mind that gas or electric, if

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Or one could place odometer-checking checkpoints on all roads in/out of a given state. I think the more reasonable way to go is simply have the fuel pumps require the odometer during use. Fleet cards already do that, so it's not like you're asking too much of the fueling stations. It's not perfect - you could fuel up out of state to dodge it - but I think it's better than the checkpoint option.

          • You're missing the point: To tax an all-electric (or hybrid) on miles driving in a particular taxing region, you must know when the car is in that region.

            Do you propose that every time I drive in or out of Oregon that I stop at a measurement station and have a state official read my odometer?

            • by Ichijo (607641)
              Why not do it electronically? You wouldn't even have to stop.
              • Why not do it electronically? You wouldn't even have to stop.

                It could be done with RFID tags similar to the kind they use for toll-road "Good-To-Go" passes, but there will be those that object to this type of tracking as well.

                I think a flat rate is a good half-way.

                • by cayenne8 (626475)

                  It could be done with RFID tags similar to the kind they use for toll-road "Good-To-Go" passes, but there will be those that object to this type of tracking as well.

                  Yeah...that's getting close to the electronic equivalent of "Papers Please" when traveling interstate.

                  I've had toll roads I've had to deal with some....I don't ever buy the toll tag things, I just pay the little extra in cash, I'd rather have my travels be as anonymous as possible.

            • by Platinumrat (1166135) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @10:30PM (#42470771) Journal

              Do you propose that every time I drive in or out of Oregon that I stop at a measurement station and have a state official read my odometer?

              "Papers please!"

          • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @10:17PM (#42470679)

            It's not perfect

            That's the problem. It *does* have to be perfect. Oregon is *not allowed*, by the US Constitution, to tax your driving out of state. Unless they can *prove* to a reasonable standard that they are not taxing out-of-state mileage, they can't do it.

      • by BitterOak (537666)

        That's easy. If you've driven an unusually high number of miles without filling up in-state, you were probably out of state.

        And how do they know where you have been filling up? People are allowed to pay cash at gas stations, you know.

    • by rtb61 (674572) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @10:58PM (#42471003) Homepage

      In which case they would be taxing people the most who walk at every opportunity rather than taking the car. The reality is fuel efficient vehicles are light, generally have low power and have the least impact on roads. You want to tax energy, then stop being morons and nationalise energy production and the profits become taxes. Nationalise the banks and the gap between interest paid and interest earned becomes taxes. Do these things and you can substantially reduce taxes for everyone. Screw the psychopathic parasite, all essential services should be government owned and the profits be considered as taxes paid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 03, 2013 @08:51PM (#42469809)

    Damn infrastructure freeloaders the lot of them.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @08:56PM (#42469871)

    Increase the gas tax to compensate. Gasoline should already be taxed more highly that it is because of it's numerous externalities.

    That will just incent the purchase of higher mileage vehicles, reinforcing a virtuous cycle.

    Eventually I suppose the time will come when taxation of high mileage vehicles will be needed, but clearly that isn't now.

    • Why tax only high-mileage vehicles? Everybody uses the road, so everybody should pay. They do have a point, but blaming people who use efficient cars is just plain stupid. Tax everyone, based on miles driven + weight of the car. Because heavier cars damage the road more. Then it will probably make sense.

      What they are trying to do now is kinda stupid.

      • Tax everyone, based on miles driven + weight of the car. Because heavier cars damage the road more. Then it will probably make sense.

        Which is essentially what a gasoline tax does - heavier cars tend to use more, cars that are driven more use more, heavy cars that are driven more use even more.

        This is just looking ahead to a future when the current way of doing business no longer works....

        • Tax everyone, based on miles driven + weight of the car. Because heavier cars damage the road more. Then it will probably make sense.

          Which is essentially what a gasoline tax does - heavier cars tend to use more, cars that are driven more use more, heavy cars that are driven more use even more.

          This is just looking ahead to a future when the current way of doing business no longer works....

          Except this is not yet the future, and it especially was not in 2001 when they started studying how to make up gas tax shortage. Fuel-efficient vehicles are still nowhere near the numbers they need to be for this to even make sense from an bureaucratic/administrative perspective ("The administrative costs of starting the new system would also outweigh any additional revenue for years").

          And, while governments are great at reacting to things, they're notoriously bad at prescriptive action without some lobby g

      • >> Everybody uses the road, so everybody should pay.

        I think what they are trying to achieve is a sort of "fairness".

        Based on this sort of objective, however, childless people should pay less property tax since they aren't a burden on the education system, and fat people should pay higher food taxes since they disproportionately use public medical resources.

        Sounds absurd to me.

      • by dpilot (134227) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @10:03PM (#42470545) Homepage Journal

        It's worse than just "weight" - I've heard that road wear is proportional to axle weight to the 4th power. You know those semis that have the sign, "This truck pays $XX,XXX yearly in road use taxes"? Compared to the road wear they cause, they're still under-paying.

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >Increase the gas tax to compensate. Gasoline should already be taxed more highly that it is because of it's numerous externalities.

      Yep.

      By taxing high-efficiency vehichles, they will be pushing people into lower-efficiency cars. Not a good move for ole hippie Oregon.

  • by nemesisrocks (1464705) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @08:58PM (#42469885) Homepage

    I don't really understand the difference between levying a higher gas tax (which is far easier to implement), and implementing a complicated system for tracking miles driven, and levying this at the gas pump.

    Call me stupid, couldn't Oregon achieve two goals of their goals (reducing SUVs, and increased revenue) by simply adjusting the gas tax by the average MPG for cars each year? No crazy GPS+Transmitter system needed, no transition time to a new system, and no invasion of privacy needed...

    I don't really understand why people are more amenable to a mile tax system vs gas tax... Unless you have a 100% electric car, you still pay for the additional miles driven, through the additional gas you consume. The only difference is you can reduce your taxes paid by purchasing a more fuel-efficient car...

    • by jfengel (409917)

      Just that the large majority who have gas-powered vehicles get cranky about being asked to pay more, while people with electric vehicles get to use the roads for "free".

      Cranky enough that they'd put up less fuss about a massive invasion of privacy? Quite possibly, yes.

    • by Ichijo (607641)
      The gas tax doesn't work very well to pay for the cost of the roads because the relationship between road wear and gasoline consumption isn't linear. Owners of smaller vehicles pay disproportionally more in gas taxes than owners of larger vehicles.
    • by mark-t (151149)

      I don't really understand why people are more amenable to a mile tax system vs gas tax

      That's because most people drive cars that actually use gas, and aren't expecting to change anytime soon, so a mile-tax system could save them a bit of money.

  • by fredmosby (545378) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @08:59PM (#42469909)
    They should just have a smaller mileage tax that applies to all vehicles (not just efficient ones) to avoid creating an incentive to have less efficient cars.
  • How utterly loverly. I hope they are not planning to charge people for not filling gas at all.

    Reminds me of the old joke. The opera was so good, they charged me 100 bucks to sit in the balcony and 200 for not attending.

  • A better plan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slew (2918) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:08PM (#42470013)

    They already have the mechanism to subsitute some amount of mileage taxes for some of the gas taxes. Most state already have a "smog-check" requirement where a licenced facility records the odometer reading so you can register your car. They could easily just add a mileage tax to your vehicle licencing fees as a requirement to register your car. If enough states do this, you could even just tie this to the reciprocal licence-plate identifcation toll agreements that states have with each other (to enable them to replace toll takers with electronic toll devices and licence plate readering software) to account for some out-of-state licence plates.

    The current gas tax is probably highly regressive anyhow (poor folk driving older cars that get lower MPG on average pay more than rich folks that driver newer cars that get better MPG), so this seems like the progressive thing to do. You probably don't want to get rid of the gas tax entirely (as it has a small amount of incentive for getting cars that get better MPG), but say split the desired revenue collection about 50-50.

    • Re:A better plan (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dj245 (732906) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:28PM (#42470185) Homepage
      I strongly disagree with you on two points-

      Most state already have a "smog-check" requirement where a licenced facility records the odometer reading so you can register your car. They could easily just add a mileage tax to your vehicle licencing fees as a requirement to register your car.

      Thereby encouraging odometer fraud. The cost of a high odometer now is difficult to quantify. How much less is a 120,000mi car worth compared to a 90,000mi car? Difficult to say. If you are going to tax someone based on the odometer though, figuring out how much it is going to cost you is easy. Avoiding that tax would be a strong incentive to play with the odometer.

      The gas tax might be regressive, but don't forget that the gas tax is intended to pay for the roads and related transportation projects. That is what it is (supposed to be) for. What causes the most damage to the roads? Weather, which is uncontrollable and untaxable, and heavy vehicles. The correlation of vehicle weight and road deterioration couldn't be more clear. Heavy vehicles are intrinsicly less fuel efficient. The tax on fuel helps to keep vehicle weight down if it is high enough. That helps the roads last longer and saves everybody money in the long run.
  • HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW!

    I predicted this two decades ago based on the Netherlands, which forced into existence natural gas car conversions, then slapped a massive tax on them such that you have to drive about 20,000 km/year before you break even vs. gas tax.

    HAW HAW HAW HAW, observe asses in action. It's about the money, fools. And what handing it out can buy, which is votes. Everything else is sophistry.

  • Electric/hybrid vehicles should pay less per mile as they do less damage to the roads. An engineer friend told me that road damage is proportional to the fourth power of the weight, so an SUV that weighs 5500 pounds [cadillac.com] will wear the roads approximately 10 times faster than a hybrid that weights 3000 pounds [toyota.com]. It's only fair and reasonable that the Escalade driver pays 10 times the gas taxes, assuming that lawmakers are being honest about what those taxes are used for. Yeah, I know; I had a hard time typing that last part with a straight face.

    • WTF? The physics are well known and understood outside of politics: F=MA. High millage cars have less Mass. Faster roads cost more because of A, it is not difficult to find out the HUGE expense of raising speed limits have on new roads and maintenance. If you are going to tax based upon distance driven, a fuel consumption tax makes sense; however, if you do not consume ANY fuel this approach fails to be equitable. This proposal does not solve the problem and continues the same irrational solution. If

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:27PM (#42470177)
    Back in the 90s there was a panic over water shortages in California so they pushed people to reduce water usage. The program worked so well it cut into the operating budget of the water department so they raised rates to make up for lost revenue. Essentially they are penalizing people for being responsible. It's a horrible message at best. Just raise the gas tax on everyone. Sure the gas guzzlers will keep paying more as they should. This idea of shared burden so you don't single out SUV owners and others that prefer gas hogs like aging Hummers and trucks is nuts. If you are worried about road upkeep raising taxes on tires would make more sense so everyone pays rather than attacking high mileage car owners.
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:30PM (#42470207)

    what about plan B build more toll roads / change free ones to tolls.

  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:31PM (#42470223)
    What are law makers going to do when in ten to twenty years we have self driving cars that they can't give ticket to? "Obeying laws tax" for all self driving vehicles?
  • Hey Oregon: (Score:5, Informative)

    by TankSpanker04 (1266400) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:34PM (#42470271)

    Awesome idea! Please impose a per-mile tax on fuel efficient vehicles such as hybrids.

    By the way, you might want to review your existing $1500 rebate for purchasing said hybrid:
    http://www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/cons/res/tax/docs/hybridform.pdf [oregon.gov]

    [reaches into bag of applicable figures of speech]

    Let's see:

    Left hand doesn't know what the right hand... no, wait...

    Rebates giveth, and per-mile taxes taketh... WAIT, NO I GOT IT!

    Stop being stupid.

  • by JustOK (667959) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:35PM (#42470281) Journal

    We should tax all foreigners not living in our country.

  • boneheaded idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sdnoob (917382) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:35PM (#42470285)

    the environmental benefits and lower consumption aren't worth anything to these idiots in salem? this is aimed squarely at those who drive plug-in electrics, but those owners SHOULD get a little break (besides the federal credits at time of purchase) for their choice of car to buy.

    not collecting enough fuel tax? just raise the per-gallon rate. that's easy and uses existing systems and infrastructure to collect. costs zero to implement, unlike a complicated system of tracking every vehicle and billing for miles driven -- which has it's own privacy issues besides. if road fuel is to be taxed, the existing method of per-gallon taxes collected by federal and state governments are the ONLY reasonable and fair way to go. it penalizes those who drive less efficient vehicles (we DO want people to drive efficient vehicles), or damage roads (larger, heavier vehicles do more damage) while providing an incentive to change to cleaner, more efficient models or to drive less (or carpool, walk, bike, or take public transit, etc).

    a combination of a little higher registration fee (for all vehicles, not just high efficiency or electric ones) combined with a modest per-gallon increase should be more than enough to offset the supposed loss in road tax revenues.

    at the risk of -1 from oregon residents... oregon could also start collecting a modest statewide sales tax (it doesn't currently have one) to bring in a few extra bucks. they do not need to violate every state driver's privacy by using a costly to implement and administer per-mile tax. but knowing how the masses usually vote, if it comes down to driver privacy + per mile tax vs a small statewide sales tax, voters will choose to be tracked everywhere they go even if it ends up costing them more money. the stigma of a "state sales tax" will lose every time -- and has numerous times before at the ballots, which is why oregon has one of the highest state personal *income* tax rates in the country instead.

  • and not Natural gas.

    But for those that use the argument of electric vehicles, there is an easy solution to this. Skip worrying about those that charge at home. The reason is that if they charge at night, they actually LOWER ALL OF OUR ELECTRICITY COSTS. Yes, by charging in the middle of the night, power companies are able to run their base load systems at a higher rate, and more importantly, when they do build new plants, it will be base load systems, as opposed to more expensive day-time on-demand systems.
    So, where and when should you tax electric cars to pay their way? When they charge in high demand times. Basically, the more cars that charge in daytime, and the more that it will cost ALL electric users. Charging in the daytime at a home is expensive. The reason is that most home owners of electric cars get price breaks during the night time. During the daytime, they pay full price. BUT, the commercial stations, such as at walgreens, should be charged a tax for day-time usage. Interestingly, all of the systems, have the ability to do just that. IOW, taxes can be added to those commercial systems, and can be time based.

    Natural gas, can also be charged at the stations.
  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Friday January 04, 2013 @12:00PM (#42475863) Homepage Journal

    1.6 billion shortfall.

    Oregon uses 45,000 MkWh a year.
    45,000,000,000 kWh.
    3.5 cent a kWh would solve this with the added bonus that it will also take care of electric cars as well.

    Oregon, and many other places, have this weird tax the thing used ONLY for its support; which needs to stop. IN the context of services for society, it's really stupid to do that.

  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:58PM (#42480879)

    They used to say they were using taxes to modify people's behavior to get them to do better things. The whole Sin Tax idea. Now they're taxing good behavior too. In other words, they're just plain greedy.

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