Mileage Taxes

This is a very bad idea:

For years, Oregon has been diligent about reducing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels, but its environmental consciousness has come at a stunning price — gas tax revenue is down $4.8 million a year compared with 2006.

That drop, caused by lower fuel consumption and a slowing economy, has prompted Oregon to consider a new way to pay for road repairs: Democratic Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski’s upcoming budget calls for a highway tax based on mileage, not gasoline purchases.

I’m sensitive to the need of the state to raise revenue, but they need to come up with something much better than this. Aside from the sheer creepiness of putting GPS systems in every new car that allow the state to monitor how much (and presumbaly where) you drive, the incentive structure of this is just terrible. Yes it’d be nice to get people driving a lot less, but there’s a certain baseline to how low that can go. If you have to go to work, take your kids to school, or some other fairly non-negotiable activity, then there’s really no way around your need for that amount of driving. That’s why more efficient vehicles are important, if you can’t reduce the sheer amount you’re driving, you can still reduce your fuel consumption by getting better mileage from your vehicle, and a sufficient tax on gasoline can encourage people to buy more efficient cars, thereby limiting the amount of emissions. But just taxing the amount of mileage┬ápeople are driving irrespective of how much fuel is being used for that does nothing to get people to conserve energy.