Oregon program will tax drivers by the mile

Oregon is looking for volunteers to participate in an experimental program to tax drivers of electric and hybrid cars by the mile rather than add the tax at the pump.

Washington Times:

Oregon’s Department of Transportation is hoping to get 5,000 people to volunteer to install a small device under their steering wheels that will track their mileage and charge drivers’ credit cards  one and a half pennies for each mile driven, Fox News reported Friday. 

Transportation officials say the growing numbers of electric and hybrid cars has left the gas tax flat and unable to fund road maintenance.

“We’re trying to make up for a growing deficit, really, because inflation’s eating away at our ability to buy asphalt and rebar and the things we need to maintain the roads,” Tom Fuller of the Oregon Department of Transportation told Fox News.

Oregon was the first state to impose a gas tax in 1919. That tax has now reached 30 cents per gallon.

Some Oregon drivers want the program to go national to make the tax more fair for all drivers.

“I’ve been free-loading on the highways for 20 years driving electric cars  or hybrid cars, getting at least 40 miles to the gallon. So I haven’t been paying my fair share,” said Oregon resident David Hastings, Fox reported.

Oh, put a sock in it. Anyone eager to pay taxes is a moron. Why not just cut a check to the Oregon Department of Transportation if you're so excited about this program?

But others are raising questions about privacy. Two of the three OReGO systems track and store a car’s every move. 

“To put a GPS monitor in everybody’s car, the government already knows too much about us as it is,” said Jeff Kruse, a Republican lawmaker, Fox reported. 

There is also growing concern about the cost of the program. OReGO vendors will collects up to 40 cents of every dollar drivers are charged, and green car drivers could be in for some serious sticker shock every month. 

“We need to be subsidizing and incentivizing electric cars and not putting more taxes or fees on them, not discouraging people from buying them in any way,” Jeff Allen, of “Drive Oregon” told Fox.

And that's the basic problem with "pay by the mile" programs. They don't work unless there's a GPS element to the device. And where we go when we leave our house is certainly no one's business - least of all, the government's. 

And the argument by Mr. Allen is also valid. Part of the attraction of electric and hybrid vehicles is the savings from not having to fill up as often - or at all. This program would make those savings disappear and disincentivize the purchase of electric cars.

There has already been talk in Washington of establishing this kind of program as a substitute for imposing gas taxes at the pump. The Highway Trust Fund is underfunded as it is thanks to less driving because of high fuel costs and improving fuel efficiency. At present, it doesn't seem a practical or popular idea. What about people who don't have credit cards, or refuse to give the government a CC number? How do you charge them?

I wouldn't worry. The politicians will have it all figured out soon enough.