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Oregon Gov pushes pay-by-the-mile to replace gas tax

The governor of Oregon is worried about the nation's embracing of high-mileage vehicles. The change could result in a sharp drop in gas tax revenue, leaving his state with a huge deficit, so his administration has come up with a workable alternative - the pay by the mile vehicle tax plan.

The transition to this plan, which would take some time, has been included in the state's new proposed transportation bill. How it would work--

Vehicles are equipped with GPS units that keep track of miles driven. When the driver refuels, a device at the pump reads the total miles driven since the last fill up and adds a per-mile tax charge to the final fuel bill. The gas tax portion of the final total would be deducted. In a test of this system by 300 Portland-area residents, the drivers paid 1.2 cents tax per mile driven and received a refund of their gas tax, 24 cents a gallon.

If my math is correct, vehicles that get 20 mpg would pay the same tax as before. Oddly, cars that get higher mileage would actually pay a higher tax under this plan. For example, a car that gets 30 mpg currently pays .8 cents per mile in gas tax. A gas guzzler that gets 10 mpg, on the other hand, would see its tax per mile cut in half.

I don't have a problem in revising the way funds are collected to keep the nation's roads maintained. I'm uneasy, however, with the government collecting yet another record of my personal life, in this instance, my travel habits. The state claims that the system will not collect any personal data, but I have a theory-- call it Barlow's Conjecture-- that any personal data that can be collected and added to master marketing databases eventually will be.

Despite my qualms, this is the most workable solution I've seen to sustaining state transportation revenue, and so I expect to see it show up on the planning board of many other states.

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