Oregon to test per mile tax for motorists

| 6/13/2006

Personal vehicle drivers in the state of Oregon may soon find out what truckers who drive through the state already know – they are going to tax you one way or another.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Web site, the state has launched a test pilot program of mileage-based taxes for drivers. The program began the week of June 11 and is expected to last about a year, at which time the state will analyze the results and determine whether this method is a viable alternative to fuel taxes at the pump.

The program was developed by engineers at Oregon State University and uses a Global Positioning System in a car to track the number of miles driven both inside and outside of the state.

When the car goes to fill up, a radio transmitter sends the data to a receiver in the gas pump. The mileage fee is added to the bill and the gas tax is subtracted.

About 280 volunteer vehicles will be used to test the program by carrying GPS devices and filling up at participating stations. The volunteers will be paying a tax of 1.2 cents per mile. By contrast, the mileage tax rate for a five-axle truck weighing from 80,001 to 82,000 pounds 13.59 cents per mile, according to the state DOT.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said the Association has some serious concerns about programs like this one.

“At first blush, this clearly looks like big brother,” he said. “It clearly has social engineering implications which would concern us.”

Spencer said this program, as well as existing programs that already tax truckers based on miles traveled with in a state, are simply unfair.

“The rest of the story is that the current highway policy where states collect fuel taxes on trucks, even on toll road miles they run, is clearly an unfair and discriminatory form of taxation,” he said. “If tax policy for highways continues to basically be so outrageous and absurd, we’ll all be screaming for some kind of change.”

By Terry Scruton, senior writer