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Mileage Tax Being Considered By Obama Transportation Secretary – Updated

CNSNews is reporting that the Obama Administration is against the proposal by the Transportation Secretary on considering implementation of a mileage tax on Americans, an idea that is being batted around in several State legislatures.  The tax would require all vehicles to be outfitted with equipment that keep track of the car’s mileage, travel time, and road use to compute the tax you owe for using the roads.

Privacy concerns are rightfully raised because it would give the Government knowledge of when, where, and how people move about.  This will also increase costs for delivery of goods and services, because the heavy tractor-trailers will be taxed more than regular cars.  People who commute will be forced with the decision to possibly change jobs if the costs become too outrageous.  Delivery companies will suffer because they will have to increase their costs for package delivery; the costs of goods will also increase to offset the new road tax.

Way to stimulate the economy, huh?

Obama Administration Says No to Transportation Secretary’s Mileage Tax Idea

AP Interview: LaHood’s Talk of Mileage Tax Nixed

Friday, February 20, 2009
By Joan Lowy, Associated Press


Washington (AP) – President Barack Obama will not adopt a policy to tax motorists based on how many miles they drive instead of how much gasoline they buy, his chief spokesman said Friday.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs commented after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told The Associated Press that he wants to consider the idea, which has been proposed in some states but has angered many drivers.

“It is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration,” Gibbs told reporters, when asked for the president’s thoughts about the policy and LaHood’s remarks.

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 told the AP in an interview Thursday.

“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 Thursday.

LaHood spokeswoman Lori Irving said Friday that the secretary was speaking of the idea only in general terms, not as something being implemented as administration policy.

Most transportation experts see a vehicle miles traveled tax as a long-term solution, but Congress is being urged to move in that direction now by funding pilot projects.

The idea also is gaining ground in several states. Governors in Idaho and Rhode Island are talking about such programs, and a North Carolina panel suggested in December the state start charging motorists a quarter-cent for every mile as a substitute for the gas tax.

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.

Besides a VMT tax, more tolls for highways and bridges and more government partnerships with business to finance transportation projects are other funding options, LaHood, one of two Republicans in Obama’s Cabinet, said in the interview Thursday.

“What I see this administration doing is this – thinking outside the box on how we fund our infrastructure in America,” he said.

LaHood said he firmly opposes raising the federal gasoline tax in the current recession.

The program that funds the federal share of highway projects is part of a surface transportation law that expires Sept. 30. Last fall, Congress made an emergency infusion of $8 billion to make up for a shortfall between gas tax revenues and the amount of money promised to states for their projects. The gap between money raised by the gas tax and the cost of maintaining the nation’s highway system and expanding it to accommodate population growth is forecast to continue to widen.

Among the reasons for the gap is a switch to more fuel-efficient cars and a decrease in driving that many transportation experts believe is related to the economic downturn. Electric cars and alternative-fuel vehicles that don’t use gasoline are expected to start penetrating the market in greater numbers.

A blue-ribbon national transportation commission is expected to release a report next week recommending a VMT.

The system would require all cars and trucks be equipped with global satellite positioning technology, a transponder, a clock and other equipment to record how many miles a vehicle was driven, whether it was driven on highways or secondary roads, and even whether it was driven during peak traffic periods or off-peak hours.

The device would tally how much tax motorists owed depending upon their road use. Motorists would pay the amount owed when it was downloaded, probably at gas stations at first, but an alternative eventually would be needed.

Rob Atkinson, chairman of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, the blue-ribbon group that is developing future transportation funding options, said moving to a national VMT would take about a decade.

Privacy concerns are based more on perception than any actual risk, Atkinson said. The satellite information would be beamed one way to the car and driving information would be contained within the device on the car, with the amount of the tax due the only information that’s downloaded, he said.



(Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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