Oregon looking at taxing mileage instead of gas

Discussion in 'Legislation' started by SentraSE-R, Jan 3, 2009.

  1. SentraSE-R

    SentraSE-R Pishtaco

    From the Huffington Post

    Oregon Looks At Taxing Mileage Instead Of Gasoline

    RYAN KOST | January 2, 2009 09:27 PM EST

    PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon is among a growing number of states exploring ways to tax drivers based on the number of miles they drive instead of how much gas they use, even going so far as to install GPS monitoring devices in 300 vehicles. The idea first emerged nearly 10 years ago as Oregon lawmakers worried that fuel-efficient cars such as gas-electric hybrids could pose a threat to road upkeep, which is paid for largely with gasoline taxes.

    "I'm glad we're taking a look at it before the potholes get so big that we can't even get out of them," said Leroy Younglove, a Portland driver who participated in a recent pilot program.

    The proposal is not without critics, including drivers who are concerned about privacy and others who fear the tax could eliminate the financial incentive for buying efficient vehicles.

    But Oregon is ahead of the nation in exploring the concept, even though it will probably be years before any mileage tax is adopted.

    Congress is talking about it, too. A congressional commission has envisioned a system similar to the prototype Oregon tested in 2006-2007.

    The National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing is considering calling for higher gas taxes to keep highways, bridges and transit programs in good shape.

    But over the long term, commission members say, the nation should consider taxing mileage rather than gasoline as drivers use more fuel-efficient and electric vehicles.

    As cars burn less fuel, "the gas tax isn't going to fill the bill," said Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
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    The next Congress "could begin to set the stage, perhaps looking at some much more robust pilot programs, to begin the research, to work with manufacturers."

    Gov. Ted Kulongoski has included development money for the tax in his budget proposal, and interest is growing in a number of other states.

    Governors in Idaho and Rhode Island have considered systems that would require drivers to report their mileage when they register vehicles.

    In North Carolina last month, a panel suggested charging motorists a quarter-cent for every mile as a substitute for the gas tax.

    James Whitty, the Oregon Department of Transportation employee in charge of the state's effort, said he's also heard talk of mileage tax proposals in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado and Minnesota.

    "There is kind of a coalition that's naturally forming around this," he said.

    Also fueling the search for alternatives is the political difficulty of raising gasoline taxes.

    The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993, and nearly two dozen states have not changed their taxes since 1997, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

    In Oregon's pilot program, officials equipped 300 vehicles with GPS transponders that worked wirelessly with service station pumps, allowing drivers to pay their mileage tax just as they do their gas tax.

    Whitty said the test, which involved two gas stations in the Portland area, proved the idea could work.

    Though the GPS devices did not track the cars' locations in great detail, they could determine when a driver had left certain zones, such as the state of Oregon. They also kept track of the time the driving was done, so a premium could be charged for rush-hour mileage.

    The proposal envisions a gradual change, with manufacturers installing the technology in new vehicles because retrofitting old cars would be too expensive. Owners of older vehicles would continue to pay gasoline taxes.

    The difference in tax based on mileage or on gasoline would be small _ "pennies per transaction at the pump," Whitty said.

    But the mileage tax still faces several major obstacles.

    For one, Oregon accounts for only a small part of auto sales, so the state can't go it alone. A multistate or national system would be needed.

    Another concern is that such devices could threaten privacy. Whitty said he and his task force have assured people that the program does not track detailed movement and that driving history is not stored and cannot be accessed by law enforcement agencies.

    "I think most people will come to realize there is really no tracking issue and will continue to buy new cars," Whitty said, noting that many cell phones now come equipped with GPS, which has not deterred customers.

    Others are worried that a mileage tax would undermine years of incentives to switch toward more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    "It doesn't seem fair," said Paul Niedergang of Portland, that a hybrid would be taxed as much as his Dodge pickup. "I just think the gas tax needs to be updated."

    Lynda Williams, also of Portland, was not immediately sold on the idea but said it was worth consideration.

    "We all have to be open-minded," she said. "Our current system just isn't working."
  2. Bike123

    Bike123 Well-Known Member

    The present system is simple, has no privacy issues, and rewards the change the nation needs to make. Most other costs have risen, so why should we expect the tax for maintaining roads to stay flat? Just raise the gas tax rate. We dropped the tax on internet purchases to kick start that business model (at great expense to cities), so why not the same for electric vehicles?
  3. drimportracing

    drimportracing Pizza driver: 61,000+ deliveries

    This wouldn't come close to the amount necessary to increase revenue. We in NC are currently are paying 48.6 cents per gallon for federal and state combined. Cars getting 48mpg or better would have to be charged at least 1 cent per mile just to continue with the current tax revenue.

    link of Federal and State gas taxes: http://www.northcarolinagasprices.com/tax_info.aspx

    So why would this NC panel suggest a substitute for gas tax that would hurt tax revenues of all cars getting less than 48mpg. A car with an average of 24mpg would need 2 cents per mile to maintain the status quo. Are they really that stupid? They would figure it out the first week that they received half of their current taxes. At the current rate of $.486 per gallon I will pay about $418.19 in state and federal taxes this upcoming year. That's already 1.13 cents per mile.

    Maybe they need to just raise the gas tax another 25, 30 or 50% whatever it takes to employ road workers, fix roads and heal the economy. They could do annual inspections with renewal fees based off of mileage in addition to the current gas tax.

    I drive about 24,000+ miles a year for work on average and I just added 13000 miles of "to work commuting" annually with my recent new farther from home but better paying pizza job. I'll use 302 gallons more fuel than I previously did. But I'm taking home $100 more a week so it will more than cover the fuel cost. I'm not happy about the loss of time or the environmental impact but a job is better than no job. I need an EV that goes 175 miles per charge.

    Until then I'll gladly pay my additional $209 a year (that's a 50% increase in NC gas tax). Like it or not we have to come up with the money somewhere and the bill is due soon. - Dale
  4. donee

    donee Well-Known Member

    Hi All,

    The problem with this concept is it does not take into account the weight of the vehicle. Road engineers have known for many years that heavy trucks do the most road damage. They figured this out when they took the FFT's of road wear, and found spectrum spikes that correspond to the tire spacing on the common 18 wheeler, at the prevailing speed on the section of the road.

    If they were to put in such a scheme, it would need to charge based on a mileage time weight product to charge the proper amount for the amount of ware each vehicle does to the roadways. Thus scale would need to be non-linear. That is, it would need to charge something like ten times more for the 18 wheeler's weight*mileage product than for the Insight. Because that 18 wheeler is doing 10 times the damage per pound-mile.

    Is fuel mileage (a gas tax) about the same thing as doing this by an elaborate mileage measurement and weight measurement method? I think so. The heavier the vehicle, the more it damages the road, and the bigger following gap required for safe operation and stopping (more road bed) is needed. So that all makes sense.

    So why do they want to charge by miles, and leave out the weight? It seems to me that this is an attempt by Luddite vehicle owners (SUV Pickup ) to avoid paying their fair share of a road tax that is going to need to increase.

    Another problem with the concept is Toll Roads. How are they going to descern the miles on a toll road, for which tax has already been paid for? A person running on a toll road is paying his road tax daily at the toll gate/sensor. A person on a side road is paying by fuel tax. A commuter could commonly spend 80 % of miles on a tollway around here.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2009
  5. jkp1187

    jkp1187 Well-Known Member

    I agree. This tax-by-mile idea is awful. We don't need to give the state yet another reason to harass people.

    That said, the article does make a good point -- MPG is important when talking about fuel usage, but so is the number of miles driven. All else being equal, the person getting 15 MPG driving 15 miles/day is using less than one getting 50MPG with a 100 miles/day commute.

    Going slightly off topic here, I think in the next generation or so, getting people to move back to the cities -- within walking/easy public transportation (or very short driving) range of the places they shop and work on a day-to-day basis -- is going to be a more reliable solution to the problem of energy usage. More so than just building fuel-efficient (or alternative energy) vehicles that act as enablers for the suburban commuting culture and all the added highway/utility infrastructure expense that that mode of living requires.
  6. Tomjones76

    Tomjones76 Well-Known Member

    It would be slightly less silly if they were taxing:
    GVWR * miles
  7. voodoo22

    voodoo22 Cheaper than the bus

    Gas tax is the only way to go. Why should I have to pay the same amount of tax to drive 20 miles on the highway on with our light Yaris, vs someone in a Hummer? Completely illogical and like previous posts said, this in no way awards the action of moving towards more FE cars which are better for the environment.
  8. drimportracing

    drimportracing Pizza driver: 61,000+ deliveries

    I too agree with voodoo22. I would even go to this extreme: Raise it to a $1.00 a gallon.

    Watch the automotive market change to more FE vehicles and of course get the funding needed for the roads hopefully with lower rolling resistant surfaces. Make FSPs pay dearly for their consumption. Not out of malice but of necessity for the Earth's well being.

    Don't blame the tax on FE cars but let the public know that fuel efficiency is making a difference and it shows by the reduction in usage but maintenance costs must be addressed and this is the logical way to collect the necessary money.

    This higher tax could be the push needed to get more people aware of their wastefulness. There is going to be accountability, better to choose this one than to be forced to accept a more severe one in the future.

    I just hope that funding goes to what is needed instead of greedy politicians, lobbyists and contractors. It was so much easier when I had training wheels. :) - Dale
  9. psyshack

    psyshack He who posts articles

    Obama is looking at this. I get above epa hwy if Im in town. They want to get like this the wife and I will drop ins. never tag a car again or pay tax on them. They can spend more on jail and court cost than there law is worth. Screw them,,, and hard!!!
  10. kingcommute

    kingcommute Hypermiling Apprentice

    Ideas like this scare me. I drive 35,000+ miles per year commuting back and forth to a teaching job. I can afford the gas tax because I drive a fuel efficient car - but a mileage tax would kill me. And I'm pretty sure that my Paseo doesn't do the same wear and tear to the highway as someone else's Hummer or Range rover.

    The kicker here also is that whatever they reduce in the gas tax, the refineries and oil companies will just increase the price that much more to buffer their profit margin. The average person would likely not see any decrease in the cost of gasoline.

    this is bad policy.
  11. WriConsult

    WriConsult Super Moderator

    My position (as an Oregonian) is simple: tax fuel usage, not miles driven.
  12. fixedintime

    fixedintime Well-Known Member

    I can see it now. At every entry into OR there will be a toll both where they will record your odometer reading so that when you leave the state they can look at it again and assess the taxes.

    Of course they could decide just to tax those who live in the state. Oh, but what will they do when you leave the state. I doubt they could legally tax you on miles driven in another state.

    Somehow I don't see where this thing comes close to being able to implemented.

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