Dublin Saab

Cars, politics, sports and what not from my view. (Closed Sundays and Holidays)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A taxing drive.

For all the failings of our nations lawmakers and their inability to deal with things until 10 years after it's too late there remains one area in which they are quite visionary; thinking of the government's future revenue streams. It is in this visionary bend that lawmakers a trying to come up with a way to keep getting the "gas tax", which is simply a road use tax, coming in even when everyone is driving cars that don't run on gas. Never mind that total hybrid sales represent less than 1% of total vehicles in 2004. For them this is a crisis that needs immediate attention. The solution? A tax on every mile driven.

The way the idea works is they repeal all gas taxes and instead every time you fill up or monthly or whatever a mileage tracking GPS unit in your car sends you a bill for the miles you have driven. This way even electric and hydrogen cars have to pay their share of the "road usage tax", or RUT, and stop riding on the backs of the hyrocarbon fueled cars. Sounds great, with the exception of three little things.

Big Brother. I can say with reasonable certainty that I am not at all comfortable with the government having any kind of tracking device mounted to my car. I'm probably not alone in this either.

Implementation. So you have to build and design the system. You have to have an idiot and tamper proof way of tracking and paying for the miles. You have to ensure that people being tracked and paying for miles never get charged "gas tax". There can not be any point at which drivers are expected to pay both. If there is this idea has a naked centerfold's chance in Mecca of making it out the door. Oh and then there's the logistical part of installing these tracking units in the 200,000,000+ cars registered in the US. (unit cost x # of cars = a bit)

Incentive and fairness. Right now with the old gas tax there is a little bit of fairness in that heavy vehicles, which do much more damage to the road and this is after all a RUT, get poor mileage and thereby pay a lager portion of the RUT. While it's true that Corvettes and Ferraris do little damage to the in proportion to the large RUT they pay in a gas tax we typically don't feel for people driving these machines. Also with the current per gallon RUT there is an incentive to buy smaller more fuel efficient cars. Cars that weigh less, do less damage to the road, typically get better mileage and pay a smaller RUT.

Not so with a "per mile" RUT.

Lets compare a 2005 Nissan Sentra 1.8 with a 2005 GMC Yukon XL and we'll use the "gas tax" rate of 40.4 cents per gallon that it is in here in Ohio (22 in state and 18.4 in federal). We'll look at a 800 mostly city miles driven in a month. The driver of the 2,500 pound Sentra gets 28mpg in the city and would pay $11.54 a month in RUT while the driver of the 6,100 pound Yukon gets 11mpg in the city and pays $29.38 a month. Over a year that works out to $138.48 for the Sentra and $352.56 for the Yukon. However the "per mile" RUT would would not only eliminate fairness but would create an incentive for driving gas guzzling monsters. That could be corrected by charging a "progressive" (spit) per mile RUT that reflected the weight so feather weight Honda S2000's don't get billed the same as Hummer H2's. However, I have yet to see that mentioned by our visionary lawmakers.

In the end this is coming. What we as tax payers, voters and drivers need to do is fight tooth an nail agaisnt it until we can be satisfied that it won't invade privacy rights, become a billion dollar white elephant after a miss managed introduction and that the rate has a better fairness than the current RUT. But I won't be holding my breath.


At February 20, 2005 11:55 PM, Blogger The Evil Jeremy. said...

I for one would argue that declaring an entire state a "search area" in which the government can monitor the movements of individuals who are not suspected of any crime (except, perhaps, dodging the RUT)would officially have struck the Founders as "unreasonable." Bill and Tony on the SCOTUS have, however, never met an intrusive police search that they didn't like, so I'm not holding out much hope for that legal tack. Besides, states can just put it under the heading of the War on Drugs/Terror/Hippie Hybrid Automobile Drivers and then chuck individual rights out the window. Sorry for the moonbat hyperbole, but this stuff has really gotten out of hand. A statewide database for people who--gasp--drive cars? I will officially and for twenty-four hours say nothing disparaging about loons in Montana with itchy trigger fingers wanting to press "reset" on this whole experiment with federal democracy. Sheesh.

At February 20, 2005 11:56 PM, Blogger The Evil Jeremy. said...

Is that a Sonnet in your background photo?


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