Friday, February 20, 2009

Taxing you by the mile is a terrible idea

But that's what they have in mind, folks. Since gasoline tax revenues are way down, the government has to find other methods to fund road projects.

WASHINGTON - Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn — an idea that has angered drivers in some states where it has been proposed.

Gasoline taxes that for nearly half a century have paid for the federal share of highway and bridge construction can no longer be counted on to raise enough money to keep the nation's transportation system moving, LaHood said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled," the former Illinois Republican lawmaker said.

This whole sad saga is based on a dumb idea from the start. In my opinion, any time you build government spending around a so-called "established habit" of human beings, you better be prepared for the day when that habit changes. Americans finally got smart when the oil prices shot through the roof last year, and now they're driving less. And with new technologies like Nissan's 100-mile range all-electric car, we'll be buying even fewer gallons of gasoline. Which begs the question: What is their plan for 30 years from now when electric cars are more the norm than the exception?

But the part of that article that really gets my blood boiling is how they're going to monitor your mileage:

A tentative plan in Massachusetts to use GPS chips in vehicles to charge motorists by the mile has drawn complaints from drivers who say it's an Orwellian intrusion by government into the lives of citizens. Other motorists say it eliminates an incentive to drive more fuel-efficient cars since gas guzzlers will be taxed at the same rate as fuel sippers.

The first person who comes to my door with one of these GPS modules for my car will find themselves at odds with my Second Amendment rights.

So what's the solution to all this madness? I have two ideas.

First, user fees. We already pay $36 per year to license our cars in Pennsylvania. Why not tack a little more onto that? And if you have to make toll road or two, so be it. Just don't turn the entire nation into New Jersey.

Second, make mass transit riders pay their fair share. I work in Pittsburgh, which has free bus transit from point to point within the downtown area. Make those people pay a buck or two and put that into the coffers. Some of that might fix our Port Authority trouble as well. The fares have been too cheap for too long.

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