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How to do the mileage tax

While the Obama Administration has reportedly rejected the idea, the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission has endorsed the idea of a miles driven tax to pay for road construction and maintenance. A search of Google News shows that some states are thinking about such a tax to replace gasoline taxes.

As a car owner myself, I support this tax in principle. Road wear is caused by weight and speed of vehicles and not their fuel efficiency. As we get more fuel efficient and alternatively fueled vehicles, gas tax collections will crash. For example, an all electric fleet of cars would produce zero gas taxes, but cause still wear out roads. So making people who drive the most pay the most seems reasonable.

But my support is conditional on NOT using GPS monitors in cars. No matter what the government says, forcing motorists to use GPS to monitor mileage WILL result in greater surveillance sooner or later. Additionally, criminals will find ways to hack into the supposedly secure, supposedly mileage only measuring devices and exploit them.

But there is an easy, low tech way to administer the mileage tax. Make an odometer reading a mandatory part of state car registration. Get people to bring their cars into the DMV or an approved contract station and read the odometer. Subtract the prior reading from it and calculate the tax. Give the driver the option of paying the tax all at once or in 12 monthly payments.

We might have to engineer a tamper resistant odometer, but that is probably doable. It would be a privacy friendly way of collecting a tax that is truly needed for the specific purpose of keeping our roads safe.

References: Commission Urges U.S. Mileage Tax Rejected by Obama (Update3) (Bloomberg, February 25, 2009)

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