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Draft Proposal Would Create Agency To Tax Cars By the Mile 932

Posted by timothy
from the and-we're-here-to-help-you dept.
theodp writes "The Hill reports that the Obama administration has floated a transportation authorization bill that would require the study and implementation of a plan to tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive. The plan is a part of the administration's 'Transportation Opportunities Act,' and calls for spending $200 million to implement a new Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office tasked with creating a 'study framework that defines the functionality of a mileage-based user fee system and other systems.' The office would be required to consider four factors — the capability of states to enforce payment, the reliability of technology, administrative costs, and 'user acceptance' — in field trials slated to begin within four years at unspecified sites. Forbes suggests the so-called vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax should be called the Rube Goldberg Gas Tax, because while its objective is the same as the gas tax, the way it collects revenue is extremely complex, costly and cumbersome." The disclaimers are thick on the ground, though; note, this is an "early draft," not pending legislation.
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Draft Proposal Would Create Agency To Tax Cars By the Mile

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  • Bad. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by myoparo (933550) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:13PM (#36037962)

    This sounds very, very bad.

    • by nschubach (922175)

      I know this sounds conspiratorial, but I have to wonder that the point is in things that have been happening recently. It can't solely be money/environment... can it?

      It feels like they are trying to take away our will to travel. The TSA making people not want to fly, higher oil prices (yeah, this may not be in their control...), more taxes on vehicles (like this proposal), lack of upkeep on the highways (at least around the Midwest that I've noticed...) It almost feels like there's a movement to imprison

    • Re:Bad. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @03:01PM (#36038860)

      And you know why we're getting this stupid idea? Because of the American Public's obsessive opposition to a proper gas tax. Grow a pair, and start to accept that a gas tax is the simplest, most obvious way to fund the highway system. And if anyone's worried that trucks will be driven into the ground because of inordinate gas prices, you could even have a tiered system at the pump, where someone who purchases 100 gallons in one block pays a different tax than someone who purchases 5 gallons. But this approach is the single worst way of getting people to fund the maintenance of the roads. And anyone who complains about this better first look in the mirror to check whether you are willing to support paying for infrastructure to begin with. Because the reason this is even considered is that a gas tax is demonstrated political suicide.

      • Re:Bad. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @03:05PM (#36038948)

        Trucks should pay even more. They do the most damage to the road. If that is too expensive than let goods go over roads the companies pay for. You will find they choose nice smooth steel roads and steel wheels.

  • by Lead Butthead (321013) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:14PM (#36037982) Journal

    If federal gas tax is lifted.

    • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:23PM (#36038166)

      I wouldn't. A consumption-based tax practically balances itself. The heavier vehicles create more wear due to their greater mass and they pay more into the tax fund because they consume more fuel to move that mass around. There's nothing to calculate or measure or derive. Vehicles are taxed according to their impact on the infrastructure. I realize it's not an absolute "prefect justice for all" scenario but there's very little bureaucracy involved in the current scenario so it should cost very little to implement (or, in this case, maintain). XX cents per gallon consumed. Done. All-electric and alternative fuel vehicles are such a small percentage that it's not worth the hassle of worrying about them at this point.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        >>>The heavier vehicles create more wear due to their greater mass and they pay more into the tax fund because they consume more fuel to move that mass around.
        >>>

        Unless they are electric powered (like hybrids). Then the heavier vehicle might actually burn less gasoline, and pay less tax, than a lighter vehicle.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ichijo (607641)

        A consumption-based tax practically balances itself. The heavier vehicles create more wear due to their greater mass and they pay more into the tax fund because they consume more fuel to move that mass around.

        No, the fuel tax doesn't even come close to pay for road wear, because road wear is a function of the cube of the weight. This means a 6,000-lbs vehicle causes 8 times as much road wear as a 3,000-lbs vehicle, but of course it doesn't use 8 times as much gasoline per mile!

  • by halivar (535827) <bfelger&gmail,com> on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:14PM (#36037996) Homepage

    It will never pass the house.

    • by fermion (181285)
      One would hope, but I think with a few exeptions, it will pass. Conservatives hate big government, but they hate the little tax payers even more. Look at the flexible/health spending accounts, the one way we little guys can save some tax. They keep taking out things we can use it on. It should be able to pay for any legal medical expenses, including any medications that one deems necessary. The government should not be involved in decided which medical expenses are covered. The little guys almost get
    • by Dan667 (564390)
      correct, the house is too busy not passing any job bills.
  • From TFA: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Beelzebud (1361137) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:15PM (#36038002)
    “This is not an administration proposal," White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said. "This is not a bill supported by the administration. This was an early working draft proposal that was never formally circulated within the administration, does not taken into account the advice of the president’s senior advisers, economic team or Cabinet officials, and does not represent the views of the president.”

    Not quite the same as the summary...
  • How about you fix the tax loopholes, get rid of oil subsidies, and force the oil companies that for every cent above 2 dollars they charge per gallon, the US government gets 2 cents of it. Bet you it will make more than this plan and oil will miraculously go down to 2 dollars again!
    • Re:how bout (Score:4, Informative)

      by dmomo (256005) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:24PM (#36038188) Homepage

      "force the oil companies that for every cent above 2 dollars they charge per gallon, the US government gets 2 cents of it"

      Am I parsing this wrong? The government would get 2 cents for every 1 cent?

    • by JDAustin (468180)

      What oil subsidies and tax loopholes do you refer too? Oh, maybe its the accelerated depreciation and manufacturers tax credits....something just about all corporations who produce something can get. Of course Oil does not get Per unit subsidies like Wind, Solar, etc.

      Or maybe your referring to foreign oil companies in Brazil and Columbia who are getting subsidies to aid in their production and refining of oil.

      Also, remember that the Government already gets more in taxes then the oil companies make in prof

      • Easy one first:

        Also, remember that the Government already gets more in taxes then the oil companies make in profit per gallon of gas.

        Also, remember that the oil companies already get more in revenue than the government earns providing roads to drive on.

        You compared REVENUE to PROFIT. Not the same thing. Oil companies profit on the sale of gas. The government spends more money building roads than it gets in gas taxes, so it's operating at a LOSS.

        Since the oil companies can't make any money on gas unless t

  • But... (Score:2, Troll)

    by Hangin10 (704729)

    Obama would probably use the money to socialize auto insurance. Or the legislation also makes everyone pay insurance by the mile.

    • by brit74 (831798)
      No kidding. Before you know it, they'll make auto-insurance required by law, just like health insurance!
      • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Obfuscant (592200) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:50PM (#36038624)

        No kidding. Before you know it, they'll make auto-insurance required by law, just like health insurance!

        It is a shame that they no longer teach in schools the difference between state and federal governments and the division of responsibilities accorded each based on the US Constitution. That's got to be the only reason such a stupid comment like this would appear here.

        For the sarcasm impaired: the auto insurance laws are STATE laws that require coverage to protect THE OTHER GUY sharing the road with you; the new health insurance law is a FEDERAL LAW that nobody could bother to read before they voted on it that applies to everyone except those who have enough political clout to get exempted from it.

        The other difference is that the AUTO insurance laws don't force insurers to cover every trip to the mechanic or replacement of worn out parts, while the HEALTH insurance law does.

  • by ink (4325) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:18PM (#36038058) Homepage

    What is the difference between this and the already-in-place fuel tax? The fuel tax is even better at metering costs to those that chew up roads (heavy vehicles). This sounds like a solution looking for a cause to me.

    • by BigDXLT (1218924) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:22PM (#36038148)

      They're worried about big heavy electric powered vehicles not paying them taxes. Not a problem right now obviously, but ya gotta think ahead just in case this electric thing takes off ya'know!

    • by afidel (530433) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:25PM (#36038222)
      Electric vehicles and increasing fuel economy, it's become politically unacceptable for some reason to increase the fuel tax rate which means revenue has been dropping and the drop is likely to accelerate even as our need to overhaul or transportation infrastructure is increasing (average age of bridges in the US is 50+ years even though most were designed for 40 year lifespans and for half the traffic they support today).
    • by Ruke (857276)

      This sounds like a solution looking for a cause to me.

      Who wants to bet that the manufacturers of the odometer-attachment technology is the one who helped draft the bill?

    • If you want to make the most of a diminishing resource like oil, you want those who use the most to pay the most tax. This will hopefully cut down on folks commuting or running errands in GM Suburbans or Denalis. A gas tax is better at doing that than a miles driven tax. And easier to collect.
    • by Ichijo (607641) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:49PM (#36038598) Homepage Journal

      The fuel tax is even better at metering costs to those that chew up roads (heavy vehicles).

      Road wear is a function of the cube of the weight. This means a 6,000-lbs vehicle causes 8 times as much road wear as a 3,000-lbs vehicle, but of course it doesn't use 8 times as much gasoline per mile. That means the fuel tax is still a very bad way to pay for road wear.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It would destroy the trucking industry, would raise prices on everything, crush those in rural areas which are usually poor, push us back into a recession and even the few of our senators with a brain can figure this out and make sure it never happens.

    • Trucks are already tax exempt. Ever pass a big truck stop and they have the diesel prices listed and under it "Tax Exempt Only".

      • Trucks are exempt because they pay tax based on the mileage in each state. If you're a truck, and you drive X miles through Illinois, X miles through Indiana, and X miles through Ohio, you owe X amount of tax to each state based on the mileage (hence, why they don't collect the tax at the fuel purchase point).

        Disclaimer: My father-in-law is a truck driver. I like to ask questions.

  • by ZipK (1051658) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:19PM (#36038084)
    At least the gasoline taxes encourage driving more fuel-efficient vehicles. This is simply a regressive tax that discourages driving. I guess Standard Oil, Firestone and GM aren't behind this one.
  • As long as my compact car would be taxed at a lower rate than, say, an Excursion, Hummer, or 18-wheeler as my car would do exponentially less damage to the road, I wouldn't be completely against the idea.

    Also, as long as they tax at time of registration or inspection and don't force me to install and/or pay for a GPS unit to track my movements.
  • by cosm (1072588)
    What about the taxes we already pay to the state for DOT maintenance? What about the income taxes we already pay? What about the vehicle taxes we already pay for 'regular yearly use' (at least in NC we do). What about the inspection fees we have to pay? What about tax-title-tag fees when we buy a vehicle? What about the taxes added to gasoline and diesel prices?

    I understand the need to ween America off of foreign oil, but is placing heavy taxes on vehicular use really going to do it? Would this policy ex
    • What about the taxes we already pay to the state for DOT maintenance? What about the income taxes we already pay? What about the vehicle taxes we already pay for 'regular yearly use' (at least in NC we do).

      different taxes. if you are complaining about this, may i suggest you petition your elected officials to adopt a flat rate tax. until then, all of this has zero to do with the gas tax they are looking to replace.

      What about the inspection fees we have to pay? What about tax-title-tag fees when we buy a vehicle?

      you are complaining about state issues. my state doesn't have the same inspection fees as you, nor does my state have the same tax-title-tag fees when we buy a vehicle (and if you are an out of state buyer, there are no tax title tag fees). so something tells me this is going to remain the same b

  • Why would you want to tax vehicle miles instead of gas used? Taxing gas promotes fuel efficiency AND carpooling, public transit, living closer to work, etc. It amounts to the same thing, yet I get the distinct feeling the ONLY reason this proposal is being floated is because an actual gas tax is seen as politically untenable, despite being more effective, less onerous (would you rather an extra $5 each time you fill up or pay $250 at the end of the year?), and proven to be effective in dozens of other natio
  • by DrXym (126579) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:26PM (#36038234)
    Perhaps the answer is to tax cars by calculation of fuel economy, weight, engine size, tank size etc. and stick them in various bands, e.g. A-F with A being most efficient, F being worst. Don't tax anyone in A and punitively raise the tax from bands B-F. People will buy more fuel efficient vehicles just to avoid the hassle of paying taxes on them.
    • I was actually trying to figure something like this out here in Rhode Island, where our municipalities tax us quite a bundle on our cars (I pay over $400 a year in tax on a beat-up old Focus subcompact). Anyways, the DMV already knows your car's make, model, and year. I'd like to see the tax be a flat amount, modified by some result of a formula that factored-in curb weight (damage to roads) and mileage (damage to environment/economy). Basically, the goal would be to get as many people into as light and eff

  • If they deploy an in car sensor, it will be hacked within days, they will have a high rate of "breaking" on their own, and they will be removed and kept at home. If they require it in new cars, it will kill car sales and boost the used car market.

    Public acceptance will never happen. GPS tracking is out, the recent iPhone debacle showed that people won't stand for it. Every other method will be defrauded on a massive scale (Disable speedo/odometer, use cell phone GPS for speedometer, for example.)

  • by aquabat (724032)
    Toll booths on all major routes.
  • Easier to implement, harder to cheat on, and it rewards using fuel efficient cars.
  • I know here in Pennsylvania we have to get our cars inspected annually; why not just check the odometer then and issue a tax receipt to the owner and to the IRS? No additional technology necessary.

    Of course, I'm avoiding the argument as to whether this is necessary or a good idea in any way (which it's probably not) but if they're going to do it, it should be really, really easy to implement.

  • I contacted my congressman before complaining here on /.

  • by erice (13380) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:38PM (#36038424) Homepage

    From TFA:

    The proposed “Transportation Opportunities Act” would mandate a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax that’s calculated by installing electronic equipment on each car and at filling stations. VMT calculation and payment would take place electronically every time you buy gas at the pump.

    It won't be soon but, at some point, enough cars will be electric that we will need an alternative to the fuel tax. But electric cars don't go to filling stations which makes a mileage tax based on visits to filling stations kind of pointless. It's a lot more complex than the fuel tax and it is even less accurate. Fuel taxes account for the fact that larger vehicles, which cause more damage to the roads per mile, also burn more fuel per mile.

    As others have said, it is a lot simpler to just raise the fuel tax. Actually, I don't understand why the fuel tax is a fixed value anyway. If it were a % of the purchase price like ordinary sales taxes, then revenue should stay fairly level as prices rise and usage drops.

  • I don't see the value in this, it basically means they'd be taxing the people who have to commute to work. I myself have a 30 to 45 minute commute each day. My car is very fuel efficient though (32MPG on average), but why should I pay more than say someone who buys a gas guzzler (10MPG) but doesn't have to commute to work? And the commute thing isn't so much by choice than by it's better than any other offer I've had in my direct area by far.

    I think gas tax is currently "fair", but if they just want to keep

  • by jopet (538074) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @02:40PM (#36038450) Journal

    just increase the tax on gas instead: by that not only do you tax cars by the mile, but you actually have fuel efficiency included in the tax and an actual incentive for drivers to use more fuel efficient cars. And thus an incentive to avoid unnecessary CO2 emission. Also, if the gas or diesel is taxed directly, large trucks will automatically pay more tax per kilometer, which relates nicely to the bigger damage they cause on highways.

  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday May 05, 2011 @03:33PM (#36039540) Homepage Journal
    Cripes, it wants the government to buy and install a bazillion fancy devices and install them on every car in the country? Well, I know one company that would like to see it pass...

    Why is it this stupid idea reappears every 6 months or so? Every time it involves some expensive piece of hardware (GPS receivers for instance) that needs to be bought and installed on all umpteen million cars in the country, instead of the far more sensible solution of just having the yearly inspection guy write down the mileage off of the odometer every time you bring your car in and report that along with your results to the government. It won't work in states that don't do safety inspections, but they could work something out (owner just self reports for instance) that's about a billion times cheaper than whatever technological solution someone is trying to create a market for.
  • by brentrad (1013501) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @05:00PM (#36041046)
    It's not a terrible idea in theory, because as cars become more efficient there is less money collected in gas taxes, but you still have to maintain the roads and better fuel economy does not equal less wear on the roads.

    However, if you intend to put a GPS tracking device on every car to implement it, that's where I draw the line. I'm as liberal/progressive/Democrat as they come, but I STRONGLY oppose any governmental program to track our driving. Oh they'll swear up and down that the data won't be used for surveillance, but when has law enforcement/FBI/CIA EVER turned down access to tracking methods or databases? And is it really cost-effective to put a $100-200 GPS on every vehicle in the country?

    People ask "don't you trust your government"? Not in general - about some things, but not about this. I hated that Bush started illegal warrantless wiretapping and wholesale monitoring of internet traffic, and I hate that Obama is continuing it. Don't get me wrong, I'm a strong Obama supporter, but wrong is wrong no matter which political party does it.

    As others have already commented, there's already a device in every car that tracks mileage driven - it's called an odometer. Just have the odometer read whenever you renew your registration, have your yearly inspection, or whatever your state requires. If making people give a lump sum all at once is a hardship, fold it into your yearly tax forms or something, maybe let people pay their mileage taxes they owe monthly or something. Keep It Simple, Stupid!

"I got everybody to pay up front...then I blew up their planet." "Now why didn't I think of that?" -- Post Bros. Comics

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