WASHINGTON -- Despite opposition from the White House, a proposal to tax motorists on the number of miles they drive each year is gathering speed on Capitol Hill.
Its popularity is increasing as Congress searches for alternatives to the federal gasoline tax, which is not indexed to inflation and has not been raised since 1993.
Supporters say that a mileage tax would be a more reliable source of funding for the upkeep of the nation's roads and bridges. Many environmentalists endorse it, saying that it would lead to less driving and less pollution.
However, the proposal is raising privacy concerns -- particularly if GPS devices were to monitor mileage -- and opponents say that the last thing people need is a new tax, particularly in the middle of a recession. Some critics, moreover, fear that it would have a disproportionate impact in states such as California, which has longer-than-average commutes.
A bipartisan commission that Congress created said last week lawmakers should increase the gasoline tax by 10 cents per gallon but begin shifting to a mileage tax.
''With the expected shift to more fuel efficient vehicles, it will be increasingly difficult to rely on the gas tax to raise the funds needed to improve -- let alone maintain -- our nation's surface transportation infrastructure,'' said Robert Atkinson, the chairman of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission.
The idea is nothing new in Congress.
At a hearing last year, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called the mileage tax a brilliant idea.
Last week, after the White House said it would oppose such a tax, Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., rushed to its defense, saying that the new administration should be ``open to new ideas and open to dialogue.''
''Whether they want it or not, they are going to get it,'' Oberstar said in a speech to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
The opinions of the two veteran lawmakers carry punch because they head the Senate and House of Representatives transportation committees, which oversee the country's infrastructure. With Boxer and Oberstar promising to examine the mileage tax as an option, the idea is sure to create a lively debate this year.
The proposal has plenty of skeptics.
''The gas tax strikes me as being far more appropriate,'' said freshman Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California, adding that it automatically provides a discount for lighter vehicles. ``The heavier and less efficient your car . . . the more gas you consume, and therefore the more tax you pay.''
In addition, McClintock said, a mileage tax could result in government making ''arbitrary distinctions,'' taxing the number of miles driven in different types of vehicles at different rates.
The proposal already is fueling privacy concerns.
Critics are objecting to proposals to use Global Positioning System devices to keep track of how many miles drivers log and where they go. For Boxer, it's a ''Big Brother system tracking your every move.'' While she says a mileage tax ''is the way to go,'' she said she wanted to scrap the technology and rely on an honor system in which drivers would simply certify the number of miles they drove each year.
When transportation officials pitched the idea at a committee hearing last year, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the senior Republican on the panel, told them: ``Don't waste your time on that one. It ain't going to happen.''
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If I told you to put a paper towel over a glass of water and drink the water through the paper, you might think it odd. However, if you just told me you have the hiccups then you would recognize I'm suggesting a cure for a problem.
This is similar.
Facts: More and more of our vehicles are fueling on electricity. Since the goal is to REPLACE PETROLEUM as soon as possible, how are we going to fund our transportation infrastructure.
The money has to come from somewhere, right?
If we do it by fuel, we are going to have to distinguish electricity used for trans from that used for other purposes, right? That is a substantial challenge with all kinds of complications because the electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to be used to store energy to help cope with the variable nature of wind and solar. So energy is expected to be not only bought by drivers, but to be sold by them as well.
Bottom line, when gas usage begins to significantly drop due to EVs, and then gas usage disappears completely (Gore wants to do it in 10 years, it might take 25) to replace the gas tax, we have to have way to pay for transportation infrastructure.
That is how we should solve the problem. Public solution to public problems. The right wing is opposed to that approach, as are their sponsors, the wealthy and powerful. They would rather have us all be isolated individuals, monitored, stressed, taxed, controlled and vulnerable.
Enough with the individualized solutions to social problems. The problem with the carrot and stick approach that the authoritarian and libertarian people are always promoting here, is that there is never any carrot for most people.
24. We have public transportation here in E-I-E-I-O-ville. It absolutely sucks.
I tried to use it for a couple of years. The fucking buses were always late, lots of times they didn't show at all because of breakdowns.
Let me just give you one quick and dirty example: the buses we have are junk. Broken down shit. About three or four years ago some buffoon at MAT decided to dump a couple million into repairing old old buses, I guess thinking the nostalgia of it all would make people ride the bus. The damn things broke down constantly and now they've taken or are taking them 'out of service'.
No money to fix the 'modern' buses, but a couple mil to dump into junk that won't run.
P.S. I got written up when riding the bus, told if I got two more points for being late, I'd be suspended without pay. One more after that, I'd be fired. All because the clucks who run MAT can't figure out how to get the buses to stick to a schedule. (Of course they have to run first.)
Oh yeah, the other problem. We have a crew of morans who drive the damn things. They'll leave from a transfer station late if they're gossiping with one of their buds. Then there's the one that would leave me standing in downtown Omaha because he didn't want' to stop. He told me (get this) that I wasn't at a bus stop, that it had been abandoned for 8 years. The lying fuck, there are three bus benches on that corner and there are signs posted as to what buses stop there. So we have less that operational buses and less than intelligent drivers (in many cases).
in most areas of the country, public transportation is NOT a real option for workers, for most of the jobs require commuting by car, and public transportation is very expensive for smaller cities to have.
I always laugh at people who push this line of public transportation for those of us who don't have cars because we can't afford them. Try using public transportation. It's a pain in the ass.
31. Without adequate population density, public transportation can't work.
It can quickly become a very wasteful manner of transportation.
For example, Internal combustion engines for single occupancy vehicles use about 6000 Btus per passenger mile. An Electric Vehicle (EV) is probably closer to 1500 Btus per passenger mile.
School buses are as well planned for maximum efficiency as any public transportation system, and they only achieve about 1000 Btus/pm; which is slightly less than EXISTING inner city buses, which operate in high density areas.
If you were to try and solve all (or even a majority) of our transportation problems with public transportation, it would be a huge waste of resources.
These numbers are drawn from: http://www.vtpi.org click on the second report to the right titled "Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis: Techniques, Estimates and Implications " and download chapter 5-12 "Resource Consumption External Costs", then go to tables 5-12-1 & 5-12-2 along with Figure 5-12-2.
The dismantling of public transportation and increased highway building caused sprawl.
I am well familiar with transportation cost and benefit analysis. Of course public transportation is more fuel efficient, safer, less polluting, and has less impact on the environment - all things being equal. The question is whether we keep pouring money into a failed model or not - automobiles and highways.
School buses are far from being "as well planned for maximum efficiency as any public transportation system."
Thanks for the link to the VTPI site. Excerpts:
"This report evaluates the benefits of rail transit based on a comprehensive analysis of transportation system performance in major U.S. cities. It finds that cities with larger, well-established rail systems have significantly higher per capita transit ridership, lower average per capita vehicle ownership and mileage, less traffic congestion, lower traffic death rates and lower consumer transportation expenditures than otherwise comparable cities."
"This report investigates the role that public transit can play in reducing traffic congestion and achieving other transportation improvement objectives. It evaluates criticism that urban transit investments are ineffective at reducing traffic congestion and wasteful."
"This report evaluates criticism of rail transit. It examines claims that rail transit is ineffective at improving transportation system performance, that rail transit investments are not cost effective, and that transit is an outdated form of transportation. It finds that critics often misrepresent issues and use biased and inaccurate analysis. This is a companion to the report Rail Transit in America."
"This paper summarizes the findings of nearly 100 studies concerning the impacts of transit service on nearby property values, and the feasibility of capturing this additional value to finance transit improvements. The results indicate that proximity to transit often increases property values enough to offset much or all of transit system capital costs."
The current structure of our society is what we have to work with. There is no dispute that public transportation is a valuable tool in high population density areas (which is basically the thrust of your quotes) but as historically implemented, it simply doesn't address the needs of the vast majority of the US population economically.
You wrote: "School buses are far from being "as well planned for maximum efficiency as any public transportation system."
That is wildly incorrect. I'm a huge fan of public transport (I've been an urban dweller in a major overseas city with a superb public transit system) but even in places that people generally think of as successful applications of public transport, it is of very limited value outside the areas most densely populated.
We got here by one set of transportation policies, we get somewhere else by a different set. When public transportation exists, the pressure for sprawl declines.
I am not sure why you think a school bus is the ultimate in public transportation. Better than an electric street car? (maybe I am misunderstanding you.)
I am not sure why we are talking about low density population areas, and citing high density areas as though that were the unusual situation.
How does public transportation not "address the needs of the vast majority of the US population economically?" Not sure what you mean. Clearly new plants will be located near public transportation as time goes by, as will housing and retail. The picture changes. Transportation is a cause, not merely a response to existing conditions.
27. Why would you need to distinguish between transportation and residence electric use?
Edited on Sun Mar-08-09 04:43 PM by Uncle Joe
If you evolved the gas to an electric based tax, and someone sold their stored car electricity back, kudos to them, why not reward them?
This would encourage people to.
1. Purchase electric cars faster, and drive them less causing less wear and tear on the roads and bridges.
2. Make their homes more energy efficient by downsizing or switching to renewable energy to be taxed less.
The effect of taxing mileage.
1. Would greatly damage the economy, and the environment by hurting those most vulnerable having to commute to work, while also inflating the price of goods requiring transportation. I believe this would hinder the ability of the middle class and the poor to switch over to more efficient means of transportation.
2. I also believe this would drive the poor and lower middle income class in to the cities and the result would be a significant increase in the homeless population.
29. What do we actually know about the details of these proposls?
Judging by the questions you posed, it doesn't sound like it's much.
Yet you are against it and SURE of the various ways it will damage people. How can you do that without understanding the way it will work? Are you of the mind that channeling 'truthiness' is a strictly Republican mode of operation?
You did ask one good question: why not move the tax base onto the shoulders of the electric industry? That might work, but since government is designed to operate at neither profit nor a loss, when possible it is usually better to match taxes for infrastructure to those who use the infrastructure. Not that it is always possible, but with our roads it seems reasonable to think that is what they will continue to try to do.
One problem I see is that as we progress further and further along the road to a renewable energy landscape, there is going to be more and more electricity generated and stored at the local community (think small housing development) and individual home level. How do you capture the tax to repair and build roads and bridges from the electricity generated by home solar systems? Or let's say a business produces biodiesel fuel for its own operations? How are they to be taxed?
Remember that information collection and monitoring is usually one part of the growth of government that no one supports. So the system has to be simple yet handle vast amounts of data.
I don't know if mileage charges are a good way to do it or not, but the issues you've raised simply cannot be considered to be an inevitable part of what such a proposal might look like. Basically, it sounds like you are interested in economic justice and fairness. If that's true about your feelings, then the proposed mileage tax isn't something you should oppose until the DETAILS make clear that economic justice has been left by the wayside; for that is usually a product of the people crafting the method of taxation, not the actually method itself. Almost any method can be made more or less fair to any given group as the people in charge of creating a balance fail in their job or are determined to aide one group over another.
In other words, let's just hope the Dems are in charge when the time comes to make the decision about how this matter is to be handled.
38. I based my questions by using logic and the premise of your post, I can't help it if
Edited on Mon Mar-09-09 03:46 PM by Uncle Joe
logic, fairness and economic justice happened to coincide.
1. Rural areas simply aren't as financially feasible to support mass transit as the more densely populated urban areas.
2. As business dries up in more suburban/rural areas because of the escalating cost of goods from higher transportation costs imposed by taxing mileage and their customers eroded ability to pay and transport themselves to those businesses, they will close in higher numbers.
3. As jobs dry up in those less populated suburban/rural areas combined with the higher cost of transport and goods, people on the margins; poor/lower middle income class will be financially pressured to move in to the more densely populated cities.
4. When the poor/lower middle income class become squeezed on the basic cost of living, they will be less able to adapt by purchasing electric vehicles and the motivation will be reduced as well since mileage is taxed regardless.
5. With the poor/middle income class migrating in to more densely populated cities, especially during a weak economy, the homeless rate can't help but to dramatically increase.
6. Speaking of Republicans this does have one side benefit for them, as a natural demographic of the of the Democratic Party concentrate in to smaller geographic areas, this should help the Republicans win back the Congress as they will have less competition in the those rural/suburban areas.
7. If the Republicans do win back the Congress, I believe the environmental movement and fight against the looming catastrophe of global warming climate change will be set back by decades, just as surely as God Made Little Green Inhofes.
8. I believe that considering the minuscule percentage of local electricity generated as compared to the overall amount and number of electric cars compared to those reliant on the old fossil fuel combustion engine, any concerns about how to tax that for infrastructure should be of secondary importance to that of changing our source of energy usage. I also have faith that our nation still has a few smart mathematicians that could make those calculations.
9. I believe there is a direct correlation to the size of homes and infrastructure usage, just building them alone required more, both in construction hours and supplies. Also, people that live in large homes are more likely to have extra toys; be they over-sized SUVs, more than one car, boats, motorcycles, jet skis, big screen T.V.s, more computers, etc.
10. Regarding government operating at a profit or a loss, how do you propose that government should ever pay back the enormous debt incurred over the Cheney/Bush years and that which is now being spent to avert depression? I believe ideally government shouldn't operate for profit or loss, but that doesn't seem to be the real world.
In short I believe taxing fossil fuel, and giving tax credits to renew-ables and energy efficiency is the most efficient way to change our society rapidly and avert global catastrophe. If it gets to the point where the electric tax base isn't keeping up with the need for infrastructure investment, then roll back some of those credits, or reform the way electricity is taxed. I view this as the carrot approach; encouraging everyone to change especially those most able to do so. On the other hand, I believe using a broad stick approach such as a mileage tax will only result in bruising the weakest and least able to change, while the well to do will just shrug and maybe go out to dinner one less night a month.
you still get revenue. this whole "the money has to go somewhere" bullshit is just that! it's nothing more then a way to fuck over the working class, and crush what LITTLE freedom the poor still have - the ability to drive.
They are seriously looking at doing that in the UK, and here in holland, thankfully even that asshole balky seems to have a LITTLE bit of common sense... if he pushed it, he'd loose power so fast it's make your head spin.
Just raise the power tax a few cents, POOF instant revenue that is spread to fuck over everyone equally. the difference being that the rich just MIGHT end up paying more, because they tend to have MORE electronic devices that suck more electricity than the rest... which is why taxing electricity won't happen =\ it might affect the rich!
2. I predict there will be a voter revolt if this happens
And the repubs will jump on this like a starving dog on a rotten leg of lamb. Boxer is off her rocker on this. No one is going to want to put a device which tracks their movements on their cars, and it is fundamentally a stupid idea anyway. Gas taxes are fairer, promote conservation, and achieve the same end result.
Yea it will hurt, but if we park every car for 2 or 3 days..it will stall the entire country. I can barely afford to drive now. I use my partners second car, an old truck we have enough of a struggle keeping the lights on and gas in the tanks so he can go to work, I am on disability and can only afford one tank of gas a month. Look I know the freepers hate France..but their government is afraid of the People..and we are afraid of our government??!!! WE are a 'free' country WTF?!
Yea it will hurt, but if we park every car for 2 or 3 days..it will stall the entire country. I can barely afford to drive now. I use my partners second car, an old truck we have enough of a struggle keeping the lights on and gas in the tanks so he can go to work, I am on disability and can only afford one tank of gas a month. Look I know the freepers hate France..but their government is afraid of the People. They get outraged they put a stop to everything that moves until they get what is right,and we are afraid of our government??!!! WE are a 'free' country?! I smoke and now this cig tax hits us poor folks a lot harder aren't we the ones that cannot afford insurance, but we get to pay the SCHIP tax. I have been loud often enough and said wait to see what President Obama does. It's is time to shut down this government and elect a new one they sure as hell do not represent us only the f ing rich. I m so very disappointed, not surprised though. I can cope with a tax. I am over 21 way over I don't want someone, anyone tracking my movements as I got about my lawful occasions. I am a Democrat so it is not only the Rps that will scream. As it is we are living on less than half what we earned before ( * ) stole into the WhiteHouse like a thief. I also bet that the gov't will want us to pay the fee for the equipment to track us like we were on probation/house arrest.
So a gas guzzler that only drives 30 miles a day gets a break while a fuel efficient car that drives twice the miles but uses LESS gas is penalized? The mileage idea MIGHT work if mpg and other things are factored into the equation but not in the way it is proposed so far,
What is it about some lawmakers that have these brilliant ideas that obviously are never thought all the way through.
11. The idiot Dems have managed to find the ONE WAY to shoot themselves in the foot
This is by far the dumbest idea any legislator could propose and they are embracing it. It not only replaces the fairest tax we have but it introduces an element of big brotherism into the mix. Just yesterday I was thinking that the Democratic party was so much on the correct side of every issue that the repubs were doomed to minority status for a generation, but the Dems have found a way to help them back into control.
If it passes not only is it the kiss of death for the Democratic party, it may be the end of civil society in this country. I'm talking open and widespread defiance of the law, as well as a huge market for after market devices designed to bypass the or fool the GPS.
Wouldn't it just be simpler to index the gas tax to the CPI or some other accepted economic indicator?
A lot of people will turn on the Democrats over this and I'm one of them. This is just fucking stupid.
Somebody keeps pushing this stupid idea to the Dems. Somebody who, if things are running as they usually do, stands to make big $$$ off of it. So the real task is to figure out who they are and to shine a bright spotlight on them. Tracking device makers? Gas retailers? Trucking industry? My guess is the third one, if the rate were set low enough they could save lots of money, and they already track their drivers.
18. Sometimes the obvious answer is the right one.
"Who's gonna make $$$ off this?"
Government raises the taxes, government gets more money. Money is power, the Congress seldom likes reducing its power.
Government has to spend money. It goes to people that repair roads, i.e., construction companies. Currently setting aside billions for that is called "stimulus". Making it long term is a way of rendering the short-term stimulus jobs permanent.
There's been a big outcry over how infrastructure has declined. This helps repair infrastructure.
Moreover, since they're pushing hybrids and electric cars, how would they fund highways if gasoline consumption tanks? Ah, a mileage tax. Instituting it late in the game would be difficult; instituting it now would be easier--because they can say it's for job creation and infrastructure.
Yeah, somebody would have to make the gauges; those companies would make money. But the real $$ wouldn't go to those companies.
14. I thought LaHoud proposed this and the WH said it was DOA last week?
I really don't think this is fair or feasible. This will penalize rural drivers who don't have public transportation as an option and need to use their cars to get to work. The whole methodology to track and apply this tax is suspect. Seems to me that the gas tax is the fairest and easiest way to apply the tax. The more you use, the more taxes you pay.
We have a taxpayer funded baseball stadium referendum in Miami that just won't die no matter how many times it is voted down, new referendums keep coming back over and over. No matter what, no matter how many times it has been killed, we will be paying 100's of millions for a baseball stadium for millionaires in Miami.
As some have said above, with the push toward alternative fuel vehicles, the amount of funds available for infrastructure would dwindle as gas sales fell off. Other than a flat, income tax for road repair (which I'm sure would go over real well with large city dwellers that use public transport), mileage is about the only other option I can think of to use. However, the GPS thing just won't do. What about this: Since every car on the road has to be registered, and the registration renewed yearly (insofar as I know, if there are states where this is not true I apologize), could we not simply have the DMV note your mileage when you get your renewal the first time after the law passes (or when you transfer the title or register the new vehicle), and then each subsequent renewal, have the DMV read the current mileage and tax accordingly. You could also address the disparity in weight vs. impact on road wear and tear by a progressive tax. For example, tax 2,000 lb. car at 10 cents a mile, but a 10,000 lb. SUV pays 12 cents per mile.
Who drives? The workers. I bought a house close to my place of work, got laid off, and had to take another job 40 miles away from the house. Average commute in these parts is 26 miles one way. Who does the commuting? Not the rich. The working poor and the middle class ... we do the commuting.
And how are they going to collect this tax? How are they going to calculate how many miles you drive in a period of time? Are they going to require us to install GPS instrumentation in all our cars? Who pays for that?
It is this kind of idiocy that causes Democrats to blow it whenever we get the chance to make some positive changes.
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