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Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax 837

schwit1 tips news that Oregon will become the first U.S. state to test a program to replace their gas tax with a fee for each mile citizens drive on public roads. The 5,000 people voluntarily participating in the test will be charged 1.5 cents per mile. Revenue from gas tax has been on the decline as vehicles get more fuel efficient and as hybrids and electric cars become more popular. This measure is an attempt to raise the amount of money the state takes in to pay for infrastructure projects. Many owners of those hybrid and electric vehicles are upset, saying it specifically targets them and discourages environmentally-friendly transportation. Others point out that those who drive electric vehicles need the roads maintained just as much as people still driving gas-powered cars.
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Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax

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  • Tolls? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:14AM (#49735741)

    Why not just tolls? That's a per-mileage solution that doesn't penalize hybrid and electric owners.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I am all about a use based Tax rather than a lump fee with car purchase or registration. Those who consume more (drive more) should pay more.

      • Re:Tolls? (Score:5, Informative)

        by knightghost ( 861069 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:27AM (#49735917)

        The rich live close while the poor have to commute (NYC tried something similar). Not to mention this encourages less efficient cars. It's a very, very regressive tax.

        • Re:Tolls? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) <> on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:53AM (#49736261)

          Depends on how you implement it. A PAYG tax scheme was discussed in the Netherlands a few years ago, tariffs would have depended on the environmental rating of your vehicle, i.e. an old diesel would be taxed more than a new Euro-5 compliant one.

          Over here the big advantages of PAYG were seen as:
          - congestion pricing becomes possible
          - it'd replace taxes on ownership and car purchase with usage-related pricing, incentivizing people to drive less.

          The big disadvantage was the privacy concerns.

        • Re:Tolls? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @12:00PM (#49736359)

          The rich live close while the poor have to commute (NYC tried something similar).

          The rich also drive bigger and heavier cars, which cause more damage to the roads. But most road damage is caused by heavy trucks. A fully loaded 18-wheeler causes 10000 times as much damage as a typical car, and even more if it is overloaded. If big trucks actually had to pay their way, much of their cargo would move to trains.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tompaulco ( 629533 )

            The rich also drive bigger and heavier cars, which cause more damage to the roads.

            Really, the rich people's sports cars and luxury sedans are bigger and heavier than the poor people's Escalades, Expeditions and Hummers?

        • Maybe that is backward in some locations. In Atlanta the poor live close and the rich commute AGES to get to work. My question on a per mileage charge is how is the tracking done. Reading the odometer is easy and doesn't have privacy concerns, but doesn't reflect if it was driven on private roads or out of state.

      • Re:Tolls? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @12:05PM (#49736433)

        road damage from a prius vs road damage from a semi. Hmm. sounds equitable.

        I'm an Oregonian.. and holy god, this is one of those proposals which needs to be killed with fire before it metastasizes.

      • Re:Tolls? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @12:48PM (#49737015)

        Maybe we should just nix the idea that road infrastructure needs to be paid for with gas or vehicle taxes, and start paying for it from the general fund. I don't have kids, but I still pay a crapload of taxes to pay for funding public schools. I'd argue that someone who doesn't own a car still indirectly benefits from the road infrastructure just like I benefit indirectly from our public education system.

        Besides which, are we serious or not about encouraging people to buy and use electric vehicles? Why are we still offering subsidies if we're just going to stick it to the customer another way?

        Additionally, I'd love to hear how officials expect to defeat those who attempt to hack or disconnect whatever methods are used to track mileage use. People are already plenty adept at rolling back odometers, and I'm sure creative folks will also find a way to defeat any system for mileage tracking.

    • Re:Tolls? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by alen ( 225700 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:23AM (#49735833)

      tolls need infrastructure which costs money to run

    • Re:Tolls? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:44AM (#49736133) Homepage Journal

      Well, with electronic toll-paying that could work, but it would still shift the burden from low MPG to high MPG cars.

      The great thing about a gas tax is that it's a simple way to kill two birds with one stone: encouraging higher mileage and paying for infrastructure. The problem is that not everyone agrees that both birds are important. Two-birders think that high mileage vehicles should be discouraged because of externalized costs -- pollution mainly, but also space required in parking lots, greater risk to other road users etc. One-birders don't care about externalities but understand that the roads and bridges need to be repaired. Zero-birders are just idiots.

      I'm a two-birder myself, so raising the gas tax is a no-brainer. I'd also issue everyone a flat rebate per driver, because in fact I'm a three-birder: I'm concerned about the effect of a regressive tax on the working poor who have no options but to drive to their jobs.

      But I'm also a realist. There are a lot of one-birders out there and the roads need repair. It's also politically easier in one-birder territory to sell something as a fee rather than as a tax, even though from my perspective that's an irrelevant difference if you're raising the same revenue either way.

  • So basically (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:16AM (#49735753)

    The tax burden shifts from low MPG vehicles to high MPG vehicles. Sounds like an environmentally friendly idea to me...

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      The tax burden shifts from low MPG vehicles to high MPG vehicles. Sounds like an environmentally friendly idea to me...

      Governments only care about money and power. Taxing low MPG vehicles more was just a way to justify increasing taxes because SUVs kill kittens, and nothing to do with 'the environment'.

    • Re:So basically (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:42AM (#49736095) Homepage Journal

      No, the tax burden shifts from low MPG vehicles to vehicles in general. Big difference.

      A better approach would be to have the fee slide based on the weight of the vehicle, since damage to roadways occurs by the square of the vehicle's weight, which would actually continue to reward more frugal drivers and shift the burden to those who actually incur the most cost.

    • Do you mean, the tax burden used to skew toward low-MPG vehicles, and is now MPG-agnostic?

  • Vehicle Weight (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:16AM (#49735755)
    Lower mpg vehicles often tend to be heavier (e.g. trucks & SUVs) which one assumes causes more wear than a lighter vehicle.
    • Re:Vehicle Weight (Score:5, Informative)

      by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:23AM (#49735825)

      If they're not taxing trucks by weight, they're doing it wrong. The wear by heavy trucks is exponentially greater than a number of smaller vehicles of total similar weight.
      For example, the wear & damage caused by a single tractor-trailer of 80,000 lbs is several thousand times greater than that of 20 2-ton passenger cars.

      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        I was actually referring to non-commercial vehicles, e.g. pickup trucks :)
    • by tepples ( 727027 ) <(tepples) (at) (> on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:23AM (#49735835) Homepage Journal

      Road wear is often estimated as the fourth power of axle weight. So I imagine the final regulation will include road wear as a factor. Incidentally, this rule of thumb is sometimes cited as why cyclists aren't taxed. A 200 pound* bicycle causes one ten-thousandth of the wear that a 2000 pound car causes, which means cyclists' contribution to road wear would likely be too small to collect.

      * Occupied weight

      • ... cyclists' contribution to road wear would likely be too small to collect.

        Oh yeah? What if the cyclist was wearing a backpack, too? What then? Tax them all!

        • ...and what if the cyclist was really fat and out of shape, thus breathing more heavily and expelling more CO2? What then?! Huh?!?

      • Road wear is often estimated as the fourth power of axle weight. So I imagine the final regulation will include road wear as a factor.

        That is an admirably rational argument that I fear won't stand up to politicians' desire to pander to car manufacturers and dealers, oil companies, and that part of the electorate who feel entitled to drive a big vehicle that they have no use case for and can't really afford to run. I hope I am wrong.

      • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @01:13PM (#49737337)

        A 200 pound bicycle causes one ten-thousandth of the wear that a 2000 pound car causes, which means cyclists' contribution to road wear would likely be too small to collect.

        Except for the impact divot they leave when someone doors them.

  • by Lawrence_Bird ( 67278 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:16AM (#49735757) Homepage

    with the aim of knowing your where abouts at all times. If you don't want a gas tax, charge a weight based fee at registration. And if you really, really must have a milage based tax, do it at the annual inspection based on total miles over the prior year. Accept that there is no perfect solution but that putting monitors inside people's cars is about as offensively bad as it gets.

    • Weight-based fees also unfairly nail electric vehicle drivers, because the batteries tend to weigh more than an equivalent internal-combustion drivetrain.

      • by uncqual ( 836337 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:27AM (#49735919)

        If weight fees make sense at all (for example, because of the fact that heavy vehicles cause more wear and tear on the roads and perhaps require building roads/bridges more robustly), they would make the same sense regardless of if the weight comes from batteries or lots of seats.

      • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:32AM (#49735965)

        Since it's primarily weight per axle that determines the wear caused on the roads, and the point of the tax is to maintain roads, it seems logical that heavier vehicles, whether they be SUV's or big sedans like the Tesla, should be charged more. It's not like a Leaf is particularly heavy (it's basically the same weight as the similarly sized Chevy Cruze).

      • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:33AM (#49735975)
        "Weight-based fees also unfairly nail electric vehicle drivers, because the batteries tend to weigh more than an equivalent internal-combustion drivetrain."

        The more a vehicle weighs, the more road wear it causes. How does the road not wear as much because the weight is from batteries? Do you think a semi-trailer loaded with car parts causes more wear than one of the same weight loaded with batteries?
      • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

        Heaven forbid vehicles that stress the road more should have to pay more to use said roads... You're argument applies the same as those that say it's unfair shifting away from a fuel-based tax.

        The road still needs maintained, maybe even more so due to heavier vehicles. Why should those owners get to pay less of their share because they purchased a fuel efficient vehicle?

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:22AM (#49735809) Homepage

      Don't worry. They already addressed this. From the article:

      For those who use the GPS, the state and private vendors will destroy records of location and daily metered use after 30 days. The program also limits how the data can be aggregated and shared. Law enforcement, for example, won't be able to access the information unless a judge says it's needed.

      See. Nothing to worry. No chance the government would abuse this. Besides, I'm sure it's just the metadata of your trips, not the actual details of the trip.

      • Yeah this is so obvious. If all they want to do is tax your mileage, then the beacon can simply transmit your odometer reading, and GPS is unnecessary.

  • Numbers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:17AM (#49735761)

    Currently, Oregon has a $0.30 per gallon fuel tax. Plus conversion factors for unusual fuels.

    This $0.015/mile tax is equivalent, therefore, to the rate you'd be paying if your car got 20 mpg.

    So the volunteers will come out ahead if they have gas-guzzlers, and way behind if they have even reasonably fuel efficient vehicles.

    And in exchange for higher taxes on driving, they get the privilege of providing Oregon information on how much they travel and WHERE THEY TRAVEL.

    What could possibly go wrong with this idea?

    • They'll come out ahead in Tax, and much Further Behind in fuel costs. I also don't see how this can be implemented in a way that doesn't enable people to cheat even more than they do now.
      • by IMightB ( 533307 )

        No kidding it relies on GPS.... What happens if you wrap the antenna in tin foil, claiming that you decided not to drive your car for the month etc etc etc.

    • why can't they roll it up as a flat rate into state/fed taxes and remove the tax on gas? no one wants to be tracked...or feel like they get taxed every time they get in their car.

      we all use the roads. even if we don't use them directly, we get mail, we purchase stuff that has been shipped to stores and our homes, we benefit from fire/police services that use roads etc...and more abstractly, we hold jobs that exist largely because we have a efficient economy with good transport of goods.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:19AM (#49735781)

    My dad is a retired materials science engineer; a road with infinite life for a car, will have a lifetime of something like 10 years for a fully loaded semi... They are the problem, not the cars. Tax the semis much more for the damage done to the road, vs mile driven.

  • Assuming there is some transparency to ensure accuracy of the calculations and there is some oversight to ensure the bulk of the money really does go to paying for roads, this seems like a great idea. As a taxpayer, anytime I can see a pretty direct link between my taxes and the taxes being used for something sensical, that's a good thing.

    Ideally they'd eventually roll this out to everyone regardless of car type but /also/ leave in place some portion of the gas tax so there's some ongoing incentive towards

  • for odometer and black box hackers. 14-year-olds with bank.
  • How do any volunteers who drive gas or hybrids get out of the paying gas tax, since they're paying the mileage tax? It's added right into the pump, yeah?

    • How do any volunteers who drive gas or hybrids get out of the paying gas tax, since they're paying the mileage tax? It's added right into the pump, yeah?

      Maybe through a form on their state tax return that refunds the pump taxes?

    • I'd assume they save the receipts and receive a refund, like you do with income taxes.
  • Why GPS? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by therealkevinkretz ( 1585825 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:22AM (#49735817)

    "Private vendors will provide drivers with small digital devices to track miles"

    There are already pretty strict laws for tampering with odometers. Why aren't they a sufficient measure?

    • The odometer can't tell when you've left Oregon.

      • Re:Why GPS? (Score:5, Funny)

        by rlp ( 11898 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:33AM (#49735979)

        > The odometer can't tell when you've left Oregon.

        This law seems to be a good reason to leave Oregon.

      • I would MUCH rather pay a state tax on miles driven elsewhere than be tracked so the state knows when I'm driving elsewhere.

      • Neither can the gas tax and nobody worries about that.

        My solution would be to increase the gas tax a little, tax electricity over a baseline by a little bit, nudge up vehicle registration taxes, and if that isn't enough then maybe have a little tax specific for non-gas vehicles. I don't think we need to track every car on every trip everywhere in the state.

      • Gas Taxes are more fair than mileage taxes. Gas taxes more or less tax all drivers on the roads in a state, including many from outside the state that are driving through or visiting

    • "Private vendors will provide drivers with small digital devices to track miles"

      My car doesn't have a 12V outlet, you insensitive clod (and if it did, the polaritity would be reversed) -- car built in '57, with positive ground wiring.

  • Keeping people functioning in a smaller radius concentrates the population, which consolidates income and sales taxes into a single region and subsequently centralizes economic and political power.

    But it helps the environment, so pay no attention to that police state behind the curtain!

  • by mariox19 ( 632969 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:23AM (#49735841)

    And this idea of where someone has driven being collected by government concerns no one? That's the impression you would get from the bang-up job done by the journalist authoring the article.

  • This tax, and the one it replaces, would charge people commuting to McDonalds equally with the owners of McDonalds even though the owners get somewhere between 70-90% of the economic benefit from that road use. Almost all government taxes/fees which are applied with use rather than scaled on revenue share this problem. Pretty much universally, these kind of taxes are a way for people who get only a partial share of the value they create to pay a full share of the cost of the public infrastructure required t
    • Interesting. Is there a practical way to address this, though? i.e. talking about roads specifically, I just wonder if the complexity of figuring out each business's fair share of road costs would spiral out of control. Also, it seems extremely rare to have a road lead just to one business, so the 70-90% number is probably on the high side.

      More generally, taxing infrastructure on revenue seems filled with its own set of problems. In the US at least, business expenses are tax deductible for a reason, so if y

  • There are other users in a state than just the locals (e.g. tourists, transport). Do they have a plan to recoup costs from them as well, or do they plan to give them a free ride?
  • You have to appreciate the sense of entitlement behind the statement "This program targets hybrid and electric vehicles, so it's discriminatory" in the article from an EV owner. "I use the roads, but I don't want to have to pay to maintain them" is a more accurate version of his statement. Given that the gas tax is $0.30 per gallon, the $0.015/mile charge equates to a 20mpg vehicle, so anyone with a conventional vehicle that gets better mileage would see their net costs go up participating in the pilot prog

  • "Others point out that those who drive electric vehicles need the roads maintained just as much as people still driving gas-powered cars."

    Sooooo are truck paying proportionally much much more than hybrid ?
  • by nealric ( 3647765 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:27AM (#49735915)

    The gas tax works. It's hard to evade and benefits from existing taxing infrastructure. The only problem is that it was never indexed for inflation. Tell me why we need a completely new system? Are people really less resistant to this than paying a few more cents a gallon at the pump?

    Electric vehicles and hybrids can't be the reason. Electric vehicles still represent a tiny portion of vehicles on the road. Hybrids don't really get much better fuel economy than the tiny econoboxes of the 90s. People still drive big trucks everywhere. Since less fuel efficient vehicles also tend to be heavier, they cause a disproportionate amount of road damage (and effectively get taxed more per mile).

  • The state is at risk of losing the markup on the no self-serve law so they need to figure out if they can get more money like this probably.

  • by Ogive17 ( 691899 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:33AM (#49735981)
    It needs to be a forumula that is based on miles driven AND weight of the car... unless Oregon actually believes that a Civic and a Big Rig cause the same amount of long term damage to a road.
  • by davydagger ( 2566757 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:35AM (#49736011)
    They should have registration based on vehicle wieght, and other factors which determine how much wear your vehicle does to the road.
  • Ha ha ha ha..... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:38AM (#49736037) Journal didn't REALLY think that by driving your electric or hybrid car that you were going to permanently somehow avoid the government's rapacious tax-addiction, did you?

    It's just like the cigarette taxes or any of the 'sin' taxes: they've worked so hard to get people to stop smoking, they are suddenly realizing they're losing revenue.

    There's no question that we need to pay taxes for the roads we drive on.
    Formerly, the connection between general road use and gasoline was irrefutable; now they need another mechanism.

  • by blueshift_1 ( 3692407 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:38AM (#49736047)
    ... would be to have your car registered out of state so you don't pay the mileage tax, but buy gas in Oregon (where it's cheaper due to no tax). At least until the neighboring states follow this same policy.
  • After a quick scan of the comments, I didn't notice any mention of the privacy aspects. A tax on gasoline or other fuels is non-intrusive and barely noticeable: the cost of fuel is just that much higher. But to tax drivers by distance (also perhaps factoring in the weight and nature of their vehicles) requires the state to find out how far they have travelled, which probably requires either a "spy in the car" or detection and tracking of all vehicles on the roads.

    From a civil liberties point of view, I woul

  • by damicatz ( 711271 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @11:50AM (#49736203)

    There is plenty of money from gas taxes to maintain the roads. The problem is, the highway "trust" (LOL) fund is used as a personal savings account by politicians for their pet projects. Things like millions of dollars spent on bike trails and other assorted earmarks that have nothing to do with road maintenance.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @12:15PM (#49736569) Homepage Journal
    Does it stop when you drive out of Oregon?
  • Tax Tires (Score:4, Interesting)

    by penandpaper ( 2463226 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @12:19PM (#49736627) Journal

    My state legislators actually asked this question and got me thinking about a one time tax on tires. It has the benefits of the gas tax (anonymous, based on usage) but the added benefit that you can approximate the weight that a tire will carry on the road.

    During a purchase you could either pay all taxes up front and be done with it or set up a monthly billing cycle so that poor can still make ends meet without dreading lost tread. Once taxes have been paid you are done and do not have to pay that tax until your next tire purchase. If a tire is expected to last 100k miles it, it is estimated to carry X weight for Y length of time (miles driven) meaning Z dollars in maintenance. Tax = Z - any other road infrastructure income/subsidies (gas tax still in effect could subsidized the tire tax making it cheaper).

    This could also help spur better usage of tires (keeping them properly inflated [increasing MPG], rotating tires, etc). I am not sure how to handle used tires. Also, this doesn't help if you have to travel on dirt roads or poor roads that wear on tires more than pristine new black top.

    Just a random thought, I haven't gave it much thought after initially discussing it with legislators.

    • I'll be starting black market re-tread service before the rush.

    • I like this idea, but on a 100k mile tire at $0.015/mile (the rate proposed in Oregon) that would be $1500 for a new set of tires (or $375 per tire if you have four tires and each tire gets charged at a fourth the rate). Given that a cheap new tire costs around $50, that would be a significant (perceived) price hike for new tires.

      I think people would react badly to that even if technically they are saving just as much by not paying gas tax. Strange black markets, tax dodging, and market distortions would

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