Uncle Sam eyes tax on every mile you drive

My Dad, a West Point grad and never one to shy away from a fight, knew when to back off; “never kick a man when he’s down,” he admonished me.  This is not, however, an adage known to our deal old Uncle Sam.  In fact, when it comes to taxes, Washington’s rule of thumb is, kick the hell out of the taxpayers, especially while they’re down.

Even now, in the face of a continuing bad economy, and with gasoline prices at the pump at all-time highs, the federal government is considering hitting the driving public with a whopping new tax – a per-mile tax on every mile you drive!  This idea actually had been floated back in 2009 by none other than our Nanny-in-Chief, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; but in Washington’s renewed search for ways to boost tax revenues, it appears to have grown new legs.

At the request of North Dakota Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan arm of the Congress that provides spending and revenue estimates, prepared a 38-page report last month detailing alternative approaches to funding highways and keeping up with their maintenance costs.

The green eyeshade folks at the CBO concluded that a “practical option” would be a new tax on vehicle miles traveled — a “VMT.”

According to the report, “In the past, the efficiency costs of implementing a system of VMT charges — particularly the costs of users’ time for slowing and queuing at tollbooths — would clearly have outweighed the potential benefits from more efficient use of highway capacity. Now, electronic metering and billing are making per-mile charges a practical option.”  Thank God for technology – the taxman’s best friend.

The CBO report notes that “[i]n January 2011, combined federal and state fuel taxes were about 48 cents per gallon for gasoline and 53 cents per gallon for diesel fuel, on average. If converted, those tax rates work out to about 2 cents per mile for average passenger vehicles and less than 10 cents per mile for trucks.”

Revenues to the Highway Trust Fund totaled around $35 billion in FY 2010. A tax on vehicle miles traveled would bring in significantly more in revenues; which accounts for its increased popularity in Washington.

There are also privacy concerns that come along with this, as even the CBO recognizes. Notwithstanding such concerns, however, the report floats the idea of tracking the number of miles travelled through either cell towers or GPS. The idea of Big Brother having such access to knowledge of where you were, where you are, and how you got there, should be unsettling to most Americans; even if such concerns matter little to government officials more eager to increase revenues rather than cutting spending.

-by Bob Barr, The Barr Code

88 comments Add your comment

DeborahinAthens

April 6th, 2011
6:58 am

Why not just raise the gasoline tax–which would make people stop wasting precious fuel AND raise revenues. The depth of intrusiveness of the government is breathtaking.

Not Blind

April 6th, 2011
8:33 am

The solution to every problem is tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax

I sometimes think the goobermint is trying to find out how much they can take without driving the taxpayers quite below the poverty line. I am sure it would be a piece of cake to find several thousand places to cut $1m each from. NO !!!! the answer is tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax

Chip in N GA

April 6th, 2011
8:33 am

Why don’t we just slash the size of government at all levels, toss most of the lazy clock-watching welfare workers (while keeping the important ones like firefighters), and get government back to only the basic things it’s supposed to do? Then we could cut taxes, keep our privacy and freedom, and still have plenty of money for the governments?

Oh, wait, that won’t work… that wouldn’t help the politicians buy the votes of the ignorant and greedy. Never mind.

Not Blind

April 6th, 2011
8:36 am

I know of one place I would heartily support spending cuts. There is absolutely no way the policiticians can justify their taxpayer funded pension and medical setups. Most of these people are rich before they take office and there is nothing less intelligent than entitlements for the wealthy [ unless you are one of the wealthy receiving the 'free' money ].

RepublicanInExile

April 6th, 2011
8:39 am

I do believe they’ve tried something like this in London, England, recently. To answer your question, DeborahinAthens, I think the reason why they would rather use the tracking system for a mileage tax vice raising the fuel tax is fairly simple: D.C. always has a mathmagical way of explaining new taxes to the citizenry where the average Joe is fooled in to believing he is paying less.

Barack

April 6th, 2011
8:47 am

The TSA will be now be staffing up as this fine efficient organization will be appointed to monitor gas mileage of all drivers to ensure proper compliance with the per mile tax.

[...] Uncle Sam eyes tax on every mile you drive | The Barr Code. This entry was posted in Opinion and tagged all time highs, cbo report, chairman of the [...]

Techfan

April 6th, 2011
9:11 am

Federal tax per gallon: 18.4 cents.

Karl Marx

April 6th, 2011
9:14 am

Hate to break the news but they tax you on every mile now. It’s call the gas tax and it is assessed on every gallon of fuel you buy. The more miles you drive the more tax you pay. This is just MORE tax.

alisha

April 6th, 2011
9:27 am

I agree with chip in n GA and not blind!!!

Hillbilly Deluxe

April 6th, 2011
9:31 am

Hate to break the news but they tax you on every mile now.

Exactly. If it was really about revenue, they’d just raise the gas tax.

Dr. Pangloss

April 6th, 2011
9:35 am

Something like this is about as likely to happen as a snowstorm in Key West.

Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

Road Scholar

April 6th, 2011
9:48 am

Chip: Are you proposing to get rid of roads by letting them disintegrate over time?

The problem perceived with a gas tax is that it isn’t the same for all. More energy efficient cars pay less (good motivation to conserve) but the cars do the same damage to roads regardless of efficiency. Hybrids and electric cars pay less or nothing.

They are also looking at “time of day” congestion pricing to charge more when roads are congested, hoping to “distribute” the peak congestion over a larger period of time per day, thus reducing congestion. Many transit improvements do the same as removing vehicles of new transit users from the roads at peak usage times.

The possible issue is “when do you pay”? Presently you pay a small amount everytime you purchase gas. Drivers barely notice it. Will it be a “Lump Sum” at the end of the year or month? Will you still pay at the pump with technologies allowing your vehicle to be identified and you pay the tax at the pump? I haven’t heard a good answer to this question. Right now the tax is actually assessed/collected at the tank farm since collecting it from the stations is difficult.

Either way the gas tax is a user fee; if you don’t drive, you don’t pay it!

LukasAtl

April 6th, 2011
9:48 am

So big brother and not only your cell provider, wants to know everywhere you drive in your vehicle, and track all your movements …. surprise surprise surprise ….

Road Scholar

April 6th, 2011
10:32 am

LukasAtl: They have been using cell phones for years to figure the travel times shown on the electronic signs on the highway. They can not use the data for anything else.

Real Athens

April 6th, 2011
10:34 am

Bob,

I don’t know where you’re from, but my grandmother (born in 1899) told me: “When you get ‘em down, put the boot to ‘em.”

Very interesting article comparing what is happening in Japan to what economists have been saying about “peak oil”.

What Japan’s Disaster Tells Us about Peak Oil
by Brendan Barrett UK Guardian

For large parts of eastern Japan that were not directly hit by the tsunami on 11 March 2011, including the nation’s capital, the current state of affairs feels very much like a dry-run for peak oil. This is not to belittle the tragic loss of life and the dire situation facing many survivors left without homes and livelihoods. Rather, the aim here is to reflect upon the post-disaster events and compare them with those normally associated with the worst-case scenarios for peak oil.

Fuel is unloaded at Ishinomaki port in Miyagi, Japan. The country has been buying up oil supplies since the earthquake disrupted its nuclear power industry. (Photograph: Sankei/Getty Images)
The earthquake and tsunami affected six of the 28 oil refineries in Japan and immediately petrol rationing was introduced with a maximum of 20 litres per car (in some instances as low as 5 litres). On 14 March, the government allowed the oil industry to release 3 days’ worth of oil from stockpiles and on 22 March an additional 22 days’ worth of oil was released.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which serves a population of 44.5 million, lost one quarter of its supply capacity as a result of the quake, through the closedown of its two Fukushima nuclear power plants (Dai-ichi and Dai-ni), as well as eight fossil fuel based thermal power stations. Subsequently, from 14 March 2011 onwards, TEPCO was forced to implement a series of scheduled outages across the Kanto region (the prefectures of Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa).

While the thermal power stations may restart operations soon, the overall shortfall will become even more difficult to manage over the summer period when air conditioning is utilized. The reality is that these power cuts could continue for years, especially since the one of the two Fukushima nuclear plants has effectively become a pile of radioactive scrap.

Related to this, when the Tokyo Metropolitican Government began to announce levels of radioactive contamination of drinking water above permissible levels, this was immediately followed by the rapid sell-out of bottled water, even after the levels dropped again. When bottled water is on sale in local convenience stores after some restocking took place, each customer is only allowed to purchase one 2 litre bottle.

Immediately after the quake, supermarkets outside the disaster area in Tokyo and other major cities began to sell out of foodstuffs, including various instant meals. The electrical appliance stores sold out of batteries, flashlights and portable radios.

As we all know, the twin natural and human tragedies are having impacts beyond the Tohoku region where Fukushima lies, and the Greater Tokyo area. It has been difficult for Japan’s notoriously efficient industries to maintain production, given that they rely on just-in-time systems and which have supply plants (for needed parts) that are located in the zone impacted by these combined disasters. One example is in car production, where major firms have had to suspend work at their factories when key parts are no longer available from the affected region. The fragility of this system of industrial production is glaringly obvious and it is something that peak oil commentators have warned of multiple times.

These food and bottled water shortages, power cuts, fuel-rationing and breakdowns in just-in-time manufacturing have been anticipated by those who take peak oil seriously. It is almost as if eastern Japan is experiencing a peak oil rehearsal, although other regions of Japan are virtually unaffected. If proponents of peak oil are correct, then the rest of the world may experience something similar within the next 5 to 10 years, and hence it is important that we learn valuable lessons from Japan’s response to the current circumstances.

What makes the current situation different from peak oil?

Under a peak oil scenario, the entire world (not just one country) would be affected by a continuous decline in global oil production. The rate of that decline is the key factor. If the rate is very gradual (a few percent points each year), then economies and their food and energy production and distribution systems in particular will have more time to adapt.

In such circumstances, we could envisage a significant decline in the flow of goods and people across the globe — a slowing or a potentially grinding halt. For a country like Japan that relies heavily on the import of food, having only 40% self-sufficiency, the real peak oil scenario would have dire impacts.

Under the present situation, Japan can still rely on imports to alleviate food supply problems. This is fortunate as over 600 farms, 125 harbours and 2,333 fishing vessels were destroyed by the tsunami, not to mention the thousands of people who made their livelihoods from agriculture and fishing who are either deceased or displaced. Furthermore, the 20-30 km zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant may not be used for food production for some time to come and the good reputations of those areas for providing clean produce may take even longer to be restored.

In a global peak oil scenario, it is highly likely that food prices would increase significantly. To some extent this is happening. For instance, in February 2011 it was reported that food prices reached a record high due to poor harvests, rising oil prices (at US$105 per barrel) and increasing demand for foodstuffs due to rising population and incomes. The conflict in Libya was predicted to further exacerbate the food and oil prices. In fact, conflict and civil unrest in oil producing countries is another facet of various peak oil scenarios as nations scramble for the remaining resources. It is something that Richard Heinberg describes as the “last one standing” scenario in which powerful countries will use their assets to promote their own survival at the expense of everyone else.

So in the current predicament facing Japan, the situation is ameliorated by the ability of different nations to offer support and continue trading (for instance, Evian is selling a lot of bottled water to Japan at the moment). This certainly would be more difficult under some of the extreme peak oil scenarios, where rapid oil decline is involved.

Lessons from Japan

While the consequences of the current disaster for Japan have been tragic in terms of the loss of life and while it is clear that the emotional, psychological and economic impacts are enormous, there are real signs of hope.

The first important lesson to recognize is the way that Japan’s leaders acted rapidly and responsibly. We have already indicated that fuel rationing was in place from 12 March 2011. The reality is that Japan is one of the most disaster-prepared nations in the world and regularly undertakes wide-scale drills. This practice proved to be of vital importance in helping people, communities and institutions cope with the major challenges that they have had to face.

Government officials quickly recognized that people were hoarding food supplies and began to publicly request that they only buy what they need. This was followed up by a series of public service announcements by the Japan Ad Council under theme of “What I can do now.”

The Minister in charge of consumer affairs, Renho Murata, frequently called on people not to panic buy and hoard food. She argued that this kind of activity was undermining the ability to provide relief supplies to the quake hit areas. At the same time, the general public and the private sector in the Kanto region were encouraged to comply with the scheduled power outages and to significantly reduce their energy consumption. Everybody responded positively – keen to play their part in solving this problem.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan in particular made an appeal to the people of Japan on 13 March 2011 when he said, “We Japanese have overcome many very trying situations in the past to create our modern society of peace and prosperity. I firmly believe that through our citizens working together to respond to this great earthquake and tsunami, we will certainly be able to overcome this crisis.”

This message has been echoed across the media and the Japanese public has responded by showing calmness, patience, respect for each other and mutual support. If anything, they have exemplified Richard Heinberg’s power down scenario — the path of cooperation, conservation and sharing. Whether they can hold true to this path over a prolonged period of time remains to be seen.

In the global Transition Movement, they often refer to the “head, heart and hand” approach to coping with peak oil and climate change, as discussed in Rob Hopkin’s Transition Handbook. Put simply, the head signifies the exploration needed about how we can re-orient our lives to become more local and small scale as our awareness increases of the energy crisis we are heading into. The heart symbolizes how we can generate positive visions of the future and how they can be harnessed to overcome the feelings of powerlessness in the face of these immense challenges. The hands are a representation about understanding how the transition model can be employed in practice for specific communities.

For many communities in eastern Japan, the current circumstances represent the first time they have had to consider questions about food and energy security. The vast majority appear, quite naturally, to share the overwhelming desire to get back to normal, back to the way things were before. But there are also signs of the head, heart and hand approach as many Japanese commentators are asking questions about how Japan will develop in the future.

If Japan is to build back better, then it should perhaps do so by building more resilient, more locally oriented communities in the areas affected by the quake and tsunami, and beyond. In fact, this is a chance to reconsider completely the development path for Japan towards one that is less vulnerable, less reliant upon fossil fuels, and ideally a low carbon society.

To borrow the words of Prime Minister Kan once again when he called upon his compatriots:

“Through this resolve, let us all now — each and every individual — firmly reinforce our bonds with our families, friends, and communities, overcoming this crisis to once more build an even better Japan.”

the watch dog

April 6th, 2011
10:46 am

This is absolutely outrageous. In order to implement the VMT[vehicle mileage tax] there would need to be a GPS in every car. There go 4th Amendment rights. The government will be able to track every mile, every destination. In order to do that, they should have “probable cause”. I mean really, this goes beyond the pale.Ray LaHood, already wants cars to be cell phone proof[ cell phones will not be able to work]. There again, controlling free speech, it is absolutely outrageous. And what else? A “fat tax’ on overweight people. What if they do not pay their tax? Their body will go into receivership or judgement levied? 4th Amendment rights are sacrosanct. Nothing diminishes the human spirit more quickly than the unheralded search and seizure at any hour of the day and night.

Jeb

April 6th, 2011
11:17 am

How much per dollar of gasoline goes to profit by big oil? You know, the companies we give billions to, since they need our tax dollars!

carlosgvv

April 6th, 2011
11:42 am

The real question is whose pockets will this extra tax money end up in?

Get It Right

April 6th, 2011
11:46 am

I do not want the government knowing where I am, when I go there and how far I travel to get there. This is just a modern day equivalent to showing your papers to the Gestapo as you travel about. For all the nonsense about conservatives being “Nazis”, keep in mind that Nazism is a form of Socialism and that is what our Dear Leader and his minions are pushing us towards.

cyril

April 6th, 2011
11:49 am

Here is what I like about this idea: It puts up front and center what the real cost of your trip is for road maintenance, rather than hiding it in the overall price of the cost of a gallon of gas.

Here’s what I don’t like: It means the behemoth SUV driver would pay the same rate as someone driving a tiny Kia would pay. Which unless it is implemented with a continued gas tax, or even an increased gas tax, it may be subject to the law of unintended consequences. Whereby the consumer is going to pay the same amount whether they are in an SUV or compact, so why not go ahead and splurge on the gas guzzler and worsen the oil dependence situation.

Eric

April 6th, 2011
11:49 am

A per-mile tax is a much needed solution to the current tax situation to pay for our transportation system.

The current “per gallon” taxation system is antiquated and inadequate on many levels.

The first problem with the “per gallon” system is that the federal gas tax is a fixed rate per gallon, not a percentage of the sale. Rising fuel prices exist in an inflationary period, making the costs of maintaining our road system increase. As the price of gasoline goes UP, tax revenue goes DOWN (supply, demand), as fewer gallons are sold.

Additionally, vehicle efficiency varies greatly. Under the current system, electric vehicles will pay NO TAX (as they don’t use gasoline!) to use the roadways. Hybrid vehicles will pay very little tax, and actual fuel consumers will be the people who pay for our roadways.

Replacing the federal gas tax with a per-mile system is an equitable way to distribute the costs of maintaining our roadways, and an appropriate way to ensure that tax revenues keep up with inflation.

This type of tax could be assessed by the state on odometer readings during tag renewals in order to qualify for federal highway funding.

For all you haters out there, use some critical thinking and consider that SOMEBODY has to pay for the things we use every day. The existing per-gallon system is not working.

If not per-mile, then what?

WOODSTOCK MIKE

April 6th, 2011
12:01 pm

@Eric

You are missing the point. Of course we must pay for things we use every day, but the issue is that the reason there is no money is because of meaningless govt programs that are eating up all the current revenue coming in. I think we would all opt for eliminating things that are not vital so we don’t have to raise taxes to cover the cost. There is plenty of waste and fat that can be cut from the budget to pay for road work. That seems better than taxing an already strapped consumer. The consumer drives our entire economic system, taking more and more money from the consumer only hurts the overall objective.

Al Gore

April 6th, 2011
12:40 pm

Eric you are an idiot. No one is talking about replacing the federal gas tax. That tax will stay in place and another tax per mile
will be added.

While we are at it…why don’t we raise the taxes on rich people too. That will bring in another $45 billion per year to offset the $1.3 trillion annual deficit without having to make any spending cuts. That way our grand kids can figure a way to bail us out of Obamanomics.

Eric

April 6th, 2011
1:01 pm

@Al Gore — I’m an idiot…that’s very nice and civil. However, this isn’t kindergarten, so no need for the name calling. When nap time is over and you’ve finished your afternoon sippy drink, try to have an adult conversation with the rest of us.

Government never eliminates taxes because finding new sources of revenue are too challenging to let the old ones go away. I get it. So IN ADDITION to the existing fuel tax (which will become less significant when inflation rises), we need another transportation-based revenue stream to supplement these costs. Ideally, a replacement would be best, but we know it doesn’t usually happen that way. Don’t steal from Social Security for this one, or raise my income taxes.

I know it’s fun to blame Obama for all your troubles Al, but the fathers of intergenerational theft are the Big Government Republicans (Reagan, Bush I, Bush 2) who sat in the White House before Obama. Unfortunately, Obama is carrying on the fine tradition laid down by those before him.

@WoodstockMike — for services that support our economy and lifestyle, we need a taxation system that taxes people based on the government services they use. Taxing the people who actually use the system, based on how much they use the system is how it works for every other service in our economy. Transportation taxes should pay for the transportation system.

Road Scholar

April 6th, 2011
1:08 pm

Woodstock and Eric: Both your state and federal gas taxes only goes toward transportation, except for 1 % sales tax (of the 4%) collected at th state level! Typically no general fund dollars go to transportation, unless the government adds it to their budget under special circumstances.

Jeb

April 6th, 2011
1:17 pm

Get it Right: actually Nazism is Fascism, the opposite of Socialism…so you got it wrong

Eric

April 6th, 2011
1:25 pm

@Road Scholar — excellent clarification. Transportation-based revenue should be the only thing that pays for transportation-based costs, so that people who do not use it are not unfairly burdened.

The current fixed rate of 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax cannot survive increased inflation road maintenance costs and the effects of rising gasoline costs encouraging people to use fewer gallons. EV, hybrid, diesel and conventional cars each have differing fuel consumption requirements, but all use the road the same way.

Fixed-rate per gallon taxation on fuel is a broken concept with modern road transportation.

Mike

April 6th, 2011
1:25 pm

Dr. Pangloss

Move along, folks. Nothing to see here
from Dr. Pangloss

Midtown_DD

April 6th, 2011
2:03 pm

Stop being so paranoid people. You want roads you gotta pay for them. This isn’t about big brother, this is about the reality of the costs associated with maintaining and expanding roadway systems.

Eric II

April 6th, 2011
2:03 pm

I’m a different Eric (and no idiot). Just an average citizen concerned that our freedoms continue to erode. On the matter at had, I would refuse to pay any such tax based on mileage. I have to drive to get to my job 5-6 days a week. I’ll be dXXn if I have to a pay a tax on that!

Al Gore

April 6th, 2011
2:15 pm

My Eric… you are a touchy lot…I hope they don’t institue an idiot tax…you won’t be able to afford it. Taxation without cutting spending is going to bankrupt our country…which has essentially already happened. Revenues will never catch up with budgeted spending. More taxes are to no ones benefit until this unfettered spending is brought under control.

mpercy

April 6th, 2011
2:52 pm

Jeb @11:17 am How much per dollar of gasoline goes to profit by big oil? You know, the companies we give billions to, since they need our tax dollars!

Not much. About 1-2% of the per-gallon costs (less than 10 cents on $4 gas).

EVERYONE who thinks gas costs too much due to profits going to the gas companies needs to see this link, which is provided by the government of California, and not the gas companies: http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/gasoline/margins/index.html

The federal excise tax is about 3x the profit garnered per gallon, then add on the state, local, and misc. taxes…

Eric

April 6th, 2011
2:56 pm

@Al Gore — Transportation is an essential service. Roads and asphalt cost money. Europe’s transportation system is far superior to ours from a cost standpoint because it was built long before cars existed. Additionally, their fuel taxes are higher, which has people focused on shared transportation whenever possible. Their cities are built around walking. Walking is free. To supplement walking, public transit picks up the slack.

In the USA, our transportation system was built during the advent of the automobile, the costliest and most energy inefficient form of personal transportation. The automobile invented the suburb, and gasoline is what fuels our suburbs. To make this system work, it needs roads, and lots of them. Roads need asphalt, signs, paint, engineers, and machines. All of those things are getting more expensive. The only way to bring down these cut this spending significantly is to have fewer roads.

Are you advocating tearing down roads, or do you have some other magical way of reducing the costs of our highway system?

Time for you to prove you aren’t subject to the idiot tax. Where’s the solution? How do you get transportation paid for? Transportation revenue is declining, and costs are rising. What’s your fix?

mpercy

April 6th, 2011
3:06 pm

Eric: A per-mile tax is a much needed solution to the current tax situation to pay for our transportation system. The current “per gallon” taxation system is antiquated and inadequate on many levels.

The current gasoline (fuel) tax is a very efficient, albeit in some ways imperfect, proxy for a straight user fee. In point of fact, it is perhaps the one tax I don’t mind paying at all since it is such a good proxy for road user fees.

For a given vehicle, the ratio of gallons of fuel consumed per 100 miles is basically constant, meaning that the relationship between miles traveled and fuel consumed is linear, thus the more miles you travel (the more you use the roads) the more you pay in taxes.

Heavier vehicles cause more roadway damage. But because they are less efficient, they consume more fuel than lighter, more efficient vehicles. Thus they are penalized by the existing tax in a fashion that correlates to the impact they have on the roadways.

The tax is collected at the point of sale, providing a very stable cash flow.

Gas guzzling SUV owned by the evil fat cat rich suck up gas and the rich end up paying plenty more in gas taxes. Peaceful earth-loving progressives who drive EV or hybrid pay almost nothing in gas taxes. Who can complain about that dynamic?

Right now, I’m not too worried about the 500 Chevy Volt drivers that are out there somewhere skating on not paying gas taxes. It is an issue that needs to be addressed sometime though.

In truth, there is something to be said for a per-mile user fee in lieu of gas taxes especially as there are more EV & hybrids on the roads. However, there is no need for invasive GPS tracking systems (which CBO called for in their study). Rather, an annual odometer check (required in many state already as a part of the inspection process) with a multiple for GVW would be useful, esp. if it eliminated (not supplemented) the current excise tax and was dedicated for roadways rather than general funds.

The only reason to support GPS-like tracking of mileage is to track the people driving the vehicle.

BC

April 6th, 2011
3:06 pm

I’ve only heard of this tax being implemented in lieu of the declining gas taxes due to more effecient vehicles. If this is indeed the case, this new way of taxing is not preferable to me, but still not totally objectionable. If it’s a new tax on top of a gas tax, then there’s a problem. This program is already being piloted in Oregon , for the record.

Al Gore

April 6th, 2011
3:09 pm

Eric – You must be one of those boneheads that works for the DOT and has spent the last 10 years doing 6 months of work on I-75 from Macon to Florida and I-85 to Alabama. Every road project that I have seen around Atlanta that was going to take 12 months or less took at least 4 years. I bet you drew the northen and southern Interchanges at Ga 400 I-85/I-285 with your crayon…because they were surely designed by an idiot. More taxes just gives more money to be uselessly spent.

BC

April 6th, 2011
3:09 pm

@ Road Scholar

I do believe GDOT’s Intermodal Office is funded via the general fund.

mike

April 6th, 2011
3:10 pm

You goobers believe any hype that is published as something authentic. If you don’t like taxes and what they pay for, just don’t pay them and don’t use the services.

Patriot

April 6th, 2011
3:14 pm

If it weren’t for government employees on road crews or government sweetheart contracts with private road firms, the cost of operation and maintenance would plummet. Do we really need more taxes or do we just need FAR LESS GOVERNMENT? I think we all know the answer.

mpercy

April 6th, 2011
3:16 pm

Jeb…Nazi derives from German phrase Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

It’s probably more correct to say they were fascists, which implies both anti-communism and anti-capitalism. That is, their brand of socialism was not designed to lead to Marx’s communist paradise, but it was also not willing to allow private industry to control itself–industry must subordinate themselves for the good of the state.

Wikipedia: To Hitler, the economy must be subordinated to the interests of the Volk and its state.[98] In Mein Kampf, Hitler effectively supported mercantilism, in the belief that economic resources from their respective territories should be seized by force; he believed that the policy of lebensraum would provide Germany with such economically valuable territories.[101] He believed that the only means to maintain economic security was to have direct control over resources rather than being forced to rely on world trade.[102] He claimed that war to gain such resources was the only means to surpass the failing capitalist economic system.[101] He believed that private ownership was useful in that it encouraged creative competition and technical innovation, but insisted that it had to conform to national interests and be “productive” rather than “parasitical”.[95]

A number of Nazis held strong revolutionary socialist and anti-capitalist beliefs, most prominently Ernst Röhm, the leader of the Nazis’ main paramilitary group, the Sturmabteilung (SA).[103] Röhm claimed that the Nazis’ rise to power constituted a national revolution, but insisted that a socialist “second revolution” was required for Nazi ideology to be fulfilled.[104] Röhm’s SA began attacks against individuals deemed to be associated with conservative reaction.[105] Hitler saw Röhm’s independent actions as violating and possibly threatening his leadership, as well as jeopardizing the regime by alienating the conservative President Paul von Hindenburg and the conservative-oriented German army.[106] This resulted in Hitler purging Röhm and other radical members of the SA.[106]

Joseph Goebbels adamantly stressed the socialist character of Nazism, and claimed in his diary that if he were to pick between Bolshevism and capitalism, he said “in final analysis”, “it would be better for us to go down with Bolshevism than live in eternal slavery under capitalism.”[107]

In 1920, the Nazi Party published the National Socialist Program, an ideology that in 25 points demanded:

that the State shall make it its primary duty to provide a livelihood for its citizens . . . the abolition of all incomes unearned by work . . . the ruthless confiscation of all war profits … the nationalization of all businesses that have been formed into corporations … profit-sharing in large enterprises … extensive development of insurance for old-age … land reform suitable to our national requirements.

BC

April 6th, 2011
3:17 pm

Patriot – a majority of the road crew workers are making close to minimum wage. Unless you’re some kind of supervisor, you’re probably making $10/hr tops out there.

mpercy

April 6th, 2011
3:19 pm

Midtown_DD @2:03 pm Stop being so paranoid people. You want roads you gotta pay for them. This isn’t about big brother, this is about the reality of the costs associated with maintaining and expanding roadway systems.

No it really is about tracking people. Otherwise, the CBO would have provided a plan to inspect odometers during annual inspections and charged a tax based on that number. Instead, they advocated installing GPS in each and every vehicle (including retrofitting older vehicle).

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/151765-cbo-says-taxing-drivers-based-on-miles-driven-a-real-option-for-raising-revenues

On how to implement the idea, CBO said it is unclear how much it would cost to “install metering equipment in all of the nation’s cars and trucks.”

“Having the devices installed as original equipment under a mandate to vehicle manufacturers would be relatively inexpensive but could lead to a long transition; requiring vehicles to be retrofitted with the devices could be faster but much more costly, and the equipment could be more susceptible to tampering than factory-installed equipment might be,” CBO said.

The report added that VMT taxes could be tracked and even collected at filling stations. “If VMT taxes were collected at the pump, each time fuel was purchased, information would be sent from a device in the vehicle to a device at the filling station,” it said.

mpercy

April 6th, 2011
3:22 pm

BC @3:06 pm

It’s both…a combination of VMT and gas taxes.

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/151765-cbo-says-taxing-drivers-based-on-miles-driven-a-real-option-for-raising-revenues

The report said miles driven is a larger factor in highway repairs than fuel consumption and suggested that having drivers pay for the real costs of highways “would involve imposing a combination of fuel taxes and per-mile charges.”

Swede Atlanta

April 6th, 2011
3:26 pm

I wholeheartedly support a “usage” tax based on mileage provided the other tax on usage, i.e. the federal gas tax, is eliminated.

While most European countries levy heavy gasoline taxes they do that not only to fund transportation but as a disincentive to consume. We haven’t yet adopted the latter so the only policy justification for any tax that is related to driving is based on the cost to provide the highways, bridges, etc.

I have to laugh at some posters that they don’t want the government to know where they are driving. This tax would not result in the government knowing where you drive. A baseline mileage would be established, probably piggybacking on state licensing dates. At the end of a measuring year the vehicle mileage would be taken again and a tax bill issued based on the actual mileage.

The federal government would know no more about where you drove your car than the State of Georgia that knows from year to year how many miles you drive. They record that information during emissions testing.

Eric is right in that the gas tax is based on gallons consumed. That may at one time have been more closely related to usage when all vehicles had V-8 engines, etc. But today there are many smaller cars and as Eric points out electric cars in the wings that consume much less gasoline relative to their use of the infrastructure.

Eric

April 6th, 2011
3:44 pm

@mpercy —

The GPS solution has been suggested because people do not want to be taxed for driving on their own private and local roadways. If all you do is drive your pickup truck around your work site or farm, why should the federal government get a piece of the action? Personally, I think it’s overkill for most, and an odometer solution would be appropriate. Perhaps different classes of vehicles could choose between odometer or GPS tracking.

The efficiency of the current fuel tax system is diminishing. If it were a percentage of the gasoline sale, that might fix it a bit, however it is exactly 18.4 cents per gallon.

Taxing gasoline fuel doesn’t address alternative fuel vehicles or high efficient vehicles. These vehicles will only become more popular, making their avoidance of the highway taxation system a greater problem.

“Gas guzzlers…EV…Who can complain about that dynamic?”

Fuel taxation isn’t a punative charge against somebody, its a way to assess the costs of maintaining your share of the upkeep of the highway system. Inclement weather and tires rolling over asphalt is what causes the need for road maintenence, not the quantity of fuel you consume. There used to be a fairly linear correlation between both of those numbers, so taxing fuel became a convenient way to levy taxes. That correlation is diverging though. A plug-in electric hybrid can go 35 miles without one drop of gasoline. This was never imagined when the fuel tax was created.

On the whole, I think rewarding fuel-efficient drivers is a good thing, however they are already reaping the benefits of this every week at the pump, and many buyers are already getting tax credits when they purchase the vehicles. Their tires tear up the asphalt as much (or worse…EV batteries are heavy) as other vehicles and should pay their share of the maintenance.

I do think the core idea of pay-at-the-pump for fuel taxes has worked well, but the numbers aren’t adding up the way it is currently done.

If we had “smart” gas pumps that could identify the type of vehicle you are fueling, it could take the efficiency of the vehicle into account, and adjust the tax accordingly. That sounds costly and difficult to implement though, with opportunities for fraud.

While I think your rant about Nazis is a bit off topic, it is interesting to note that our modern interstate highway system was modeled after the Nazi era German road system.

@Al Gore — I just discovered who you are (although I had a guess). You are the guy who always complains, but has no ideas himself, just likes to add to the noise. I have asked you directly what you would do to fix the situation, and all you do is complain. You have no original ideas, or ability to think critically about a real problem. You just like complaining.

You also don’t know the first thing about engineering, about following federal highway safety guidelines, about site studies, or highway management. To be honest, neither do I, but I know these important things have to happen by people who have more than a high school degree, and (hopefully) excel in their field of knowledge. If they don’t happen right, people die, or the projects have to be fixed — and its certainly cheaper to do it right the first time than to go in and try to fix a broken project.

When you have something constructive to add to this conversation, I’ll be ready to listen, but I’m not holding my breath.

mpercy

April 6th, 2011
3:46 pm

Swede Atlanta @3:26 pm I have to laugh at some posters that they don’t want the government to know where they are driving. This tax would not result in the government knowing where you drive. A baseline mileage would be established, probably piggybacking on state licensing dates. At the end of a measuring year the vehicle mileage would be taken again and a tax bill issued based on the actual mileage.

Wrong!

See my 3:19 pm post.

Swede Atlanta

April 6th, 2011
3:50 pm

Mpercy……I doubt any implementation would involve anything more than an odometer check. The federal government could piggyback on existing processes in the states around licensing/emissions testing.

I am so tired of people being concerned about the boogey man. For my part I really wouldn’t care if the government knew where I drove because I have nothing to hide but don’t think there is any need for the government to know this in order to make the mileage tax work.

Really

April 6th, 2011
3:57 pm

No new taxes make cuts and live within our means…why is that so hard for a liberal to understand?

mpercy

April 6th, 2011
4:00 pm

Eric: While I think your rant about Nazis is a bit off topic, it is interesting to note that our modern interstate highway system was modeled after the Nazi era German road system.

It was off-topic, but it was not a rant. Jeb earlier complained that Nazi’s were not Socialists. I was merely trying to point out to him that indeed they were.

No tax collection system is perfect, but the current gas tax is about as good as you can get in terms of proxy for use fees and efficiency of collection and unobtrusiveness.

Your statements about driving on your farm have about as much standing as why should I pay gas taxes for roads on the gas I use in my chainsaw and lawnmower?

“That sounds costly and difficult to implement though, with opportunities for fraud.” So does putting a GPS in every vehicle, and the ways I could prevent a GPS tracker from getting accurate mileage (i.e., committing fraud) are much easier than rolling back an odometer.

I have already admitted that for EV and hybrid that something may need to be done differently. But that need not involve GPS tracking of every mile driven. Simple reporting (annual inspection) of vehicle miles and GVW should be sufficient. If it’s not sufficient, then it is about tracking and not collecting taxes.

OTOH, Chevy Volt is not selling like hotcakes. About 400 plug-in EVs were sold in the US each month for the last 3 or 4 months, total. So call it 5000 per year. Compare that with the 7.5M cars sold annually. Put the onus on the plug-in EV drivers to report their milage and pay a GVW/mile tax–or stop giving them the big tax subsidies.