Well, it made it as a front-page story so I don't have to provide much of a summary of Gov. Ted "Big Brother" Kulongoski's proposed mileage tax on cars.
Briefly, he proposes replacing the gas tax with GPS tracking devices in new cars that will report the miles driven.
The ONLY reason I can think of to use GPS is to also enable tracking of the position and speed of the vehicle. If they just want to know how far it's been driven since the last fuel-up, there is this neat thing built in to the car already called an odometer. Sure, tire size and some other factors can make it slightly off, but it would probably work fine. If you really needed a double-check, there are these neat devices called accelerometers that can be used to determine the speed at which the vehicle is moving at any given time, and therefore be able to calculate mileage. Without tracking the position of your car.
If this becomes law, I predict the following immediate "neat ideas" and abuses will be proposed, with at least some of them becoming reality:
- Law enforcement will be allowed to get information from the device. Since it will likely be activated by radio and transmit by radio, I am sure they will find a way to do so without a warrant.
- Insurance companies will be allowed to get the information in order to surcharge you for driving in certain "risky" areas.
- You will be charged more tax for driving on certain portions of the roadway.
- You will be automatically cited for exceeding posted speed limits on any roadway. Think speed camera on steroids.
- Someone will find a way to hack the tracking device in order to find out where you live, where you work, where you frequent, what your schedule is, etc. and use that information with criminal purposes.
Sure they say that it is only intended to track mileage, but how many other government projects have been abused?
In any case, the proposal is stupid for the following reasons:
- It discourages the purchase and use of higher efficiency vehicles. So much for peak oil and energy independence that Democrats like Kulongoski like to preach. He's a hypocrite.
- Along with that, people driving 6500-pound SUVs will pay the same tax per mile as someone driving a 3000-pound economy car. Road wear contributed by a vehicle is directly affected by weight and surface contact. Thus, the person driving the big SUV or pickup truck and towing a trailer will underpay for their contribution to wear on the road. At least with the gas tax, the bigger vehicle uses more fuel and will pay proportionally more tax.
- Another "neat idea" - remedy the above by charging more per mile to people with the above vehicles.
- The tax applies if you drive on private, unmaintained, forest service, etc. roads that the Oregon tax will not ever contribute to.
- What happens if I fill up in Oregon, drive 1500 miles in other states, and return to Oregon? Does the next Oregon pump fill charge me for the 1300 miles I drove outside of Oregon?
- Someone will find a way to cheat this. All I have to do is jam the signal from common points on my trips, and I will save money. For instance, there is about 1/2 mile of common roadway I take every time I leave my house, and every time I come back. If I can jam the signal for that part of the trip every time I go, the GPS will think I live at the intersection 1/2 mile from my house. I drive it at least twice a day, totaling at least 1 mile untracked per day. While it won't add up to much for me, it will certainly add up for people in rural areas.
- The regular gas tax will still have to be in place perpetually, unless we plan on letting people from out-of-state or country use Oregon roads for free. So what is the benefit here?
Politicians like Kulongoski piss me off. They are proposing this because revenue from the gas tax has gone down due to higher efficiency vehicles and less people driving due to recent high gas prices. You'd think a Democrat like Kulongoski would be talking about how wonderful it is that we are becoming more environmentally friendly and less dependent on foreign oil. Instead he bitches about the revenue stream going away and dreams up a new lopsided tax that clearly will allow subsequent "neat ideas" and abuses. It's the same with the tobacco tax. One of the reasons always cited to raise it is it will cause people to quit. It does have this effect, and then they complain about the revenue being gone. Now, a simple solution to the gas tax revenue loss is to raise the tax. They have done this for cigarettes, but not for gas (the state gas tax has not been raised for decades). The reason? Raising taxes on the general populace (instead of smokers) is unpopular and the legislature is afraid to lose their seats for an unpopular move, no matter how necessary it may be.
I say this: If they truly believe that raising the tax is necessary for the common good, then they should just do it, their seats in the legislature be damned. This is proof that their priority is power and influence, and not the public good. Instead, they are a bunch of cowards. A legislator who truly wanted to serve the public good would do what he/she thought was right even if it meant the populace would be pissed off at first and it cost him/her their seat in the legislature.
If this proposal passes into law, I will move away from Oregon, taking my high wage (and therefore high income tax) with me.
Thoughts from anyone else?
[Edit: Fixed some spelling mistakes now that I have slept. I was evidently tired enough when writing this to ignore the red underline indicating my misspellings.]