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Oregon Lawmakers Propose Mileage Tax On Fuel Efficient Vehicles 686

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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  • 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.

  • 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 [] will wear the roads approximately 10 times faster than a hybrid that weights 3000 pounds []. 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.

  • 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.
  • Re:Of all states? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikael ( 484 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:31PM (#42470225)

    That's like Japan when they decided to go on a water conservation program to save both water and money. Showers were installed in bathrooms, toilet cisterns were modified to reduce consumption, storage tanks used to recycle rainwater for gardens. The project was a success, water consumption was reduced by 50%. But the water company had to double rates as they were now running at a loss.

  • Re:Of all states? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tragedy ( 27079 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:33PM (#42470253)

    The problem is how you determine which "fair share" they're paying for. If it's actual wear and tear to the roads, that's pretty much all caused by big trucks or by snow clearing (ploughs and, even worse, salt). Passenger vehicles cause essentially zero wear on the roads compared to those other factors. Fuel efficient cars tend to be even lighter and therefore even less likely to cause damage. You could say that the "fair share" is tied to how much space/time the vehicle occupies. The problem there is that it creates a negative incentive for state and local governments to care about preventing traffic congestion or providing optimal routes for drivers. Those governments already seem to consider driver's time to be irrelevant to cost calculations, so suddenly making it _relevant_ (by positively correlating driver time/distance to revenues) is a frightening thought. You could dismiss that thinking as paranoid, but you would have to ignore all the debacles with things like red light cameras where local governments have intentionally created unsafe conditions at red lights to drive up revenues.

    How to pay for roads does become an issue, of course. Raising fuel taxes across the board when some people have much more efficient cars than others seems unfair to the drivers with less efficient cars (some of whom may be unrepentant gas-guzzler drivers, but others of whom are probably too poor to afford a new car). Mileage taxes on fuel-efficient cars are a very bad incentive since conserving fossil fuels is the behaviour a responsible government should be encouraging. Roads and similar infrastructure are the kinds of must-have items that benefit pretty much everyone, even those who don't have cars or drive anywhere, so rightfully could come out of general taxes applied to everyone, rather than just to drivers, but people who don't drive or don't drive very much will scream that they're being forced to pay for everyone else, ignoring the fact that the civilization they rely one wouldn't run without roads. The roads need to be funded somehow, though.

    The worst case scenario (barring the big-brother box that tracks your car everywhere and bills based on that) is the government throwing up their hands and selling millions of acres of roadway to a private company (coincidentally run by some cronies) for a dollar and a vague promise of not abusing the position, then letting them run a toll system that makes the old, taxed roadway look cheap, while simultaneously being kept in worse condition and with traffic gridlocked from whatever toll-collection scheme they think up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:47PM (#42470405)

    You mean tractor trailers? Those things cause as much wear and tear as 7,000 passenger cars, but you can bet your ass they don't pay 7,000 times as much per mile in fuel taxes. Even at 2 MPG a truck would have to pay about $175 PER GALLON in fuel taxes if they were to shoulder their share of the repair costs. Since this is the United States, we don't tax business their full share and instead we ask individuals to pick up the tab in a way that they can't avoid. Then, when some individuals figure out how to significantly reduce their mandatory subsidy payments to the trucking industry, the government moves in to quash it. 'Murica.

  • by MetalOne ( 564360 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @10:11PM (#42470631)
    Only if it takes into account vehicle weight, where large trucks should pay the bulk of the cost.
  • by wagnerrp ( 1305589 ) on Friday January 04, 2013 @02:01PM (#42477541)
    Yes, they DO pay more, proportionally. The road tax is made to pay for the maintenance and repair of roads, which is caused by the use of those roads. The problem is that while efficiency losses due to increased weight are linear, road wear due to increased weight is proportional to the fourth power. That 4000lb full size sedan may weigh twice as much, use twice as much fuel, and pay twice the taxes as that 2000lb compact, but it will cause roughly sixteen times the wear to the road. By all rights, it should be paying sixteen times the taxes to cover their "fair share" of repair work.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.