Oregon is known for being one of the more liberal states in the union where committed leftists try out their “progressive” ideas before rolling them out to other states across the country.
And while it has been a point of discussion in Big Government circles to charge people based on how far they drive, Oregon is taking the leap in a test program that supporter say will impact people who use the roads more than those who don’t.
Forgetting President Barack Obama’s missive that successful people and companies “didn’t build that” (roads, bridges, reservoirs, electric grids, etc.) to become successful, Oregon is taking the message to heart.
Using metered odometers, Oregon is launching a first-in-the-nation program to charge car owners not for the fuel they use, but for the miles they drive.
As usual, the leftist brain trust in Oregon says the program is meant to raise more revenue (a.k.a. tax increase) to pay for road and bridge projects arguing that money generated from gasoline taxes are declining across the country, in part, because of greater fuel efficiency and the increasing popularity of fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric cars.
Forget for a moment that gas savings from “greater fuel efficiency” and “fuel-efficient hybrid and electric cars” were big selling points when these anti-fossil fuel schemes were imposed on consumers… or that out-of-state cars and trucks without meters won’t share in the cost of infrastructure maintenance… or that any “pay per mile” scheme necessarily means gas taxes will be repealed… or that the data collected on how far you drive and where will not be abused.
Rather, Oregon only wants you to focus on how “pay per mile” will be a more fair and equitable way to keep the state’s roads and bridges in tiptop shape and that beginning July 1, 5,000 “volunteers” will drive cars fitted with a device to collect data on the miles driven and where.
In return, the volunteers will agree to pay 1.5 cents for each mile traveled on public roads within Oregon, instead of the tax now added when filling up at the pump.
As expected, electric and hybrid car owners say the new tax would be unfair to them and would discourage the use of green vehicles. “This program targets hybrid and electric vehicles, so it’s discriminatory,” said Patrick Connor, a Beaverton resident who has been driving an electric car since 2007.
Ignoring their previous claims and promises, state officials now say it is “only fair” for owners of green vehicles to be charged for maintaining roads, just as owners of gasoline-powered vehicles do.
“We know in the future, our ability to pay for maintenance and repair… will be severely impacted if we continue to rely on the gas tax,” said Shelley Snow with the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Not to be left out, other states are contemplating “pay per mile” tax schemes to augment dwindling fuel tax revenues as well.
California created a committee to study alternatives to the gas tax and design a pilot program. Washington state set money aside to develop a similar program. And Indiana has a bill is under consideration the state legislature to study alternatives and develop an Oregon style test project.
Still, Oregon is the only state to actually test-drive the pay-per-mile idea.
Volunteers will still pay the fuel tax if they stop for gas but at the end of the month, depending on the type of car they drive, they will receive either a credit or a bill for the difference in gas taxes paid at the pump.
Privacy is also an issue.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon raised concerns about privacy and government surveillance if odometers were fitted with GPS tracking. The ACLU said the state should build privacy protections into the program. To accommodate these privacy concerns, drivers will be able to use an odometer device without GPS tracking.
It will cost Oregon about $8.4 million to implement the test program that will also gauge whether the public will accept the idea of charging drivers by the mile. Transportation officials will forward the results to the state legislature as they consider whether to make the “pay per mile” program mandatory statewide.