Future Mileage Tax For Missouri?

The following is an article that I came across in the Post. The story is about using GPS’ in cars to monitor miles driven. It is ironic that only one year ago I wrote about this very subject. I wrote that it is not too far fetched having GPS installed in cars to automatically fine drivers that exceed the speed limit by….even 1 mph.  Now, Oregon will probably be the first to install the GPS systems in order to monitor all drivers, 24/7.

If big brother knows how much you drive, they know where you drive, how fast you drive and anything else related to your driving habits. This is the slippery slope argument that has always concerned me. Once government sinks their tentacles into you, they rarely, if ever, let go.

The Story: http://www.stltoday.com.

A mileage tax isn’t yet under consideration in Missouri or Illinois, but it is an idea that’s probably inevitable in the next two or three decades, said Pete Rahn, head of the Missouri Department of Transportation.

“We will end up paying for what we drive, where we drive and when we drive,” he said.

Rahn envisons a tax where “if you want to drive a Hummer, or whatever that vehicle might be 30 years from today, at 7:30 in the morning on I-70, you’re going to pay a higher rate. If you’re going to drive a Civic on side streets at 10:30 in the morning, you’re going to pay a lower rate.”

The obstacle isn’t technology, Rahn added.

“The hugest impediments to implementing this type of system are the privacy issues,” he said. “Americans don’t like the idea that someone, or the reality would be some machine, would know when you drove or where you drove.”

In Oregon, Gov. Theodore Kulongoski’s proposed budget calls for a task force to work out details of the plan. Eventually, GPS devices could be recording every mile driven, and possibly which routes motorists use. Motorists would pay a mileage tax at the pump in place of a gasoline tax. The state tested the concept in 2006 and 2007 with 285 volunteers and a handful of gas stations in Portland, Ore.

The idea of mileage fees is gaining traction. States such as Texas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Ohio are discussing similar projects.

“What’s motivating us is this concern about the long-term viability of the motor fuel tax,” said Ken Buckeye, program manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “Particularly now, the tax you pay for using the road is based on consumption of the wrong commodity. We think it should be based on consumption of the road.”

The concept also is gaining federal support. Last year, the National Surface Transportation Police and Revenue Study Commission established by Congress reported that a mileage tax should be “strongly considered as a long-term replacement for the current fuel tax.”

A study under way at the University of Iowa is looking at the technological and institutional issues, as well as potential public response, involved with mileage fees.

In states such as Illinois, California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Iowa, legislators are considering raising the gasoline tax for the time being to fill budget gaps and potholes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In Missouri, revenue from the 17-cent tax on gasoline and diesel fuel is expected to be $498 million, down from $520 million collected in 2008.

Opponent to the plan in Oregon made privacy a top concern. Many are concerned that a mileage taxing system could lead to government officials’ tracking their whereabouts.

“I see this as a privacy invasion,” one man commented on the Argus Observer website, a newspaper in Ontario, Ore. “Whose business is it how often and how much I drive my car?”

Jim Whitty, manager of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding, said the state had no interest in tracking people.

“The people who have spoken up are intense about it,” he said. “They’re very concerned about issues like privacy and whether green vehicles would be at a disadvantage.”

In the Portland test, vehicles and gas stations were equipped with technology similar to that in cell phones and electronic toll collection systems. When drivers pulled up to a gas pump, the vehicle equipment would broadcast the mileage traveled since the previous fill-up. The station charged the motorists 1.2 cents per mile rather than the state’s 24-cent gasoline tax.

The equipment did not pinpoint vehicle locations, but it was able to determine when a driver had left the state. It also kept track of what time of day the car was driven so a premium could be charged for rush-hour driving.

Lee Younglove, who volunteered for the pilot test, said he wasn’t concerned about privacy but had friends who were. He has come to believe a mileage tax is more equitable way of paying for roads and bridges.

“There are cars now that are plug-in electrics. They don’t pay anything,” he said.

For the time being, Oregon legislators are considering raising the state gasoline tax by 2 cents. The time frame for implementing a mileage tax, Whitty said, is at least six or seven years away.

If the state continues to move toward a mileage tax, equipment would have to go through another round of tests. Policy decisions would have to be made, such as whether to charge a higher fee for heavier, gas-guzzling vehicles.

And if electric cars grow in number, the state would have to find another place besides gas stations to charge mileage fees.

“Once we know their habits, we’ll create a system for them,” Whitty said.

ecrouch@post-dispatch.com — 314-340-8119

To see more of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.stltoday.com.

Published in: on February 2, 2009 at 2:52 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. This completely blows.
    And what a idiotic notion – to charge MORE mileage tax for a “gas guzzling” vehicle?! I thought the whole damn (stupid, by the way) idea was to switch to a MILEage tax in LIEU of a GAS tax… so…. “gas guzzling” would have NOTHING TO DO WITH IT!! Sheesh.

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