Efficient or not, Uncle Sam will come for you

Robert Arrowsmith

Robert Arrowsmith

By Robert Arrowsmith

CMI Publisher

In case you missed it last week, Oregon is about to embark on a first-in-the-nation program that aims to charge car owners not for the fuel they use, but for the miles they drive.

Starting July 1, up to 5,000 volunteers in Oregon can sign up to drive with devices that collect data on how much they have driven and where. 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.

Volunteers will still have to pay the gas tax at the pump, but will receive a credit on their bill in gas taxes for the difference paid at the pump.

There are some other restrictions as well, and if you drive your car out of state, or on private property you will get a credit as well.

They will be given a digital device that will track where they go and how many miles are driven. Or if they want, they can install their odometer device for the sake of the program.

What has happened over the years is that the increased fuel efficiency of vehicles has had the adverse effect of lower tax revenues to pay for road and highway projects.

I get the intention. No I don’t like the intention, but I get it. Rather than keep the costs of projects in line, you just pass the expense on to the public.  It is easier to nickel and dime millions of people than it is to tell limited project companies to keep expenses on a level playing field.

And no I don’t know what the cost of a highway project may be, but the most recent example that I am aware of was a paving project I drove through for over a year in Montana — $13 million for 13 miles of tear up and repave.

During that time I got to meet the flag man on the project. Nice guy; gave out Jolly Ranchers each day.

He was paid $25 per hour to stop traffic. How do I know the cost? A nice big sign reminded me on the way to work and home each day how much the project was costing. What was funny was the sign also said $0 state tax dollars being used; trying to hint that we were not paying for the project.

Governments have tried multiple ways for years to figure out how to get drivers to pay more of the load for road projects. Try getting around New York City; good luck figuring out a way to get on and off of Manhattan Island without paying.

Many states are full of toll roads collecting those funds. I honestly cannot remember the last time I went through a tunnel and didn’t pay. Then it became the gas tax, and now this.

Ten thousand miles driven at 1.5 cents per mile comes out to $150. If your car gets 15 miles per gallon, in New Mexico you pay 18.4 cents per gallon tax (24.4 for diesel), so those same miles driven would cost you $122.67 in gas tax.

The difference obviously is greater in the more fuel efficient cars.

Just remember there is always going to be a price for progress. Uncle Sam just wants to make sure he gets his cut.

Robert Arrowsmith is publisher of Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

rarrowsmith@cnjonline.com

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