For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction, and in the case of cars higher fuel economy is coming at a high cost, literally, for the nation’s infrastructure. With the federal highway fund not covering necessary repairs or improvements anymore, many states are seriously considering a tax-by-mile system that has privacy rights advocates up in arms.
California, for example, is reportedly planning to institute such a system as early as 2025, and they don’t really have a choice. Raising the gas tax at a time when gas prices remain stubbornly high is a non-starter for politicians of both parties, and new fuel economy mandates mean a moving goal post that the tax rate will always be behind.
Not only are Americans driving more fuel efficient cars, but they’re also driving less. New public transit options are getting people out of cars and onto trains, buses, and bicycles. States like Oregon, which have a high take rate on fuel efficient cars and public transit use, are moving forward with studies involving as many as 5,000 drivers who will pay mileage fees, instead of gas taxes. Minnesota, which is facing a potential infrastructure shortfall of $50 billion over the next 20 years, is rolling out 500 tax-by-mile units for testing. Nevada is funding a similar, albeit smaller study, as is Illinois, New York City, and many other places along the I-95 corridor on the east coast. Even Congress has tried to initiate such studies, though such plans were shot down by politicians from flyover states.
Amazingly, this plan has support from traditional low-tax advocates on the right. The pay-per-mile tax is arguably an even fairer tax than the gas tax, directly charging you based on how far you drive, rather than how much fuel your vehicle consumes. After all, a roofing contractor needs a truck, not a Prius, but even if he only drives half as many miles, he’s probably paying four times as many taxes.
Despite this, the plan has plenty of opponents from opposite ends of the political spectrum. While the Tea Party wing of the Republican party hates any tax, period, the ACLU is aghast at the potential privacy abuses that could stem from such a system. While I’m sure that the police unions are all for such a system, one is inclined to be wary of any tracking system, especially in light of the still-unfolding NSA scandal.
Then again, as someone who barely drives at all, it would probably mean a lot fewer taxes out of my pocket, but a lot more out of someone elses. Actions, reactions, and all that.
Source: L.A. Times