This idea misses by a mile

A mileage tax on motorists would do more harm than good

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Revenue-hungry bureaucrats sweat over the paradox presented by products such as cigarettes. They want people to be healthier by not smoking, but their bank accounts ache at the prospect of losing those people who otherwise would pay all those cigarette taxes.

The same goes for gasoline. Government officials have flogged energy efficiency for decades now, and we absolutely would love to see roads full of vehicles that merely sipped gas or, even more economically, not used it at all.

But if fewer people use gas, fewer people pay the state and federal taxes on fuel. What's a cash-strapped, tax-thirsty government to do?

If we're profoundly unlucky, a government would attempt what the state of Minnesota is looking into.

Minnesota is seeking volunteers to try out new technology that would help impose a proposed mileage tax on motorists.

In describing the initiative, Cory Johnson, the project manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, spun this weaselly bit of bureaucrat-speak:

"We are researching alternative financing methods today that could be used 10 or 20 years from now when the number of fuel-efficient and hybrid cars increase and no longer produce enough revenue from a gas tax to build and repair roads."

"Alternative financing methods." Uh-huh. Hammer through that sugar coating and it's just a new tax.

On the surface it appears plausible. An old joke in Minnesota is that the only two seasons of the year up there are "winter" and "road repair." If people are driving the same stretches of road using less gas, charge by the mile, so to speak, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Think about what this tax system would entail.

First, there'd be a tracking system in every vehicle, keeping track of everywhere every driver went. How would you like Big Brother as your back-seat driver? Travel safely, citizen.

New cars presumably would have those systems, making the vehicles cost more. Old cars would have to be retrofitted, which would cost you, too.

Or if the government went without a tracking system, it always could install toll booths on every road . Does that seem efficient?

And with a new area to be taxed, that would require new cadres of revenue agents to enforce it, which grows an already bloated bureaucracy.

Even President Obama was against such an idea. When Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood floated an idea for a national mileage tax in 2009, the president -- to borrow someone else's vehicular figure of speech -- threw LaHood under the bus.

Iowa, Nevada and Texas reportedly are looking into similar mileage-tax schemes. They shouldn't. Instead of angling for ways to extract more money out of us, governments should just figure out ways to spend less of it.

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Runner46
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Runner46 04/23/11 - 07:12 am
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A self fulfilling prophesy of

A self fulfilling prophesy of basic economics. The price of goods goes up until people buy less goods. When less goods are bought, revenues go down. To make up the difference, businesses raise the price of goods. The results are that the people buy even less goods until the market place realizes that the price is too high. Then, a few enterprising businesses lower prices to sell more goods. When other businesses loose business to these entrepreneurs, they too, lower their prices. Since taxes are a government controlled cost, this cycle is very slow to respond to the market place. It's easy to increase a tax, but difficult to eliminate a tax. Thus, a tax increase will impact the market for a very long time. Since we are in somewhat of a recovery period, increasing taxes will only prolong this recovery period, and may even reverse the recovery. Increasing any taxes at this time will help our government for the short term, but it is counter-productive for the long term.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 04/23/11 - 08:22 am
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I'm surprised the Democrats

I'm surprised the Democrats and Obama are not pushing for those work to pay double for gas and eliminate the gas tax on those who don't work, etc. It's only fair to keep old people from dying and children from starving.

dani
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dani 04/23/11 - 01:31 pm
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When I hear Obama talking

When I hear Obama talking about raising taxes I think - if more of the non-working folks were working, then they would be paying taxes rather than receiving taxes (doubling the amount) and in my humble opinion that sounds like a much better idea.

WW1949
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WW1949 04/23/11 - 09:44 am
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The government should cut its

The government should cut its overhead. That is reduce spending. I don't see why it is so hard to do. The ones that hollar the loudest are the non producers that wait on their check from the taxpayers work and most working people now understand that they are not the ones that count.

onlysane1left
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onlysane1left 04/23/11 - 12:24 pm
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With the previous comments,

With the previous comments, yeah, let's blame the people on "entitlements" who are on here crying everyday unlike yourself who's voice isn't being heard. Next, instead of blaming the people, whom you elected, to even think about passing something as inane as this, lets look towards someone else to blame, it just make more sense to your thoughtless selves.

dani
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dani 04/23/11 - 01:38 pm
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Onlysane..You don't agree

Onlysane..You don't agree that more people working would lighten the load on the 50% that is now shouldering the burden?

Beck Tears
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Beck Tears 04/23/11 - 02:19 pm
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It's been marked on my

It's been marked on my calendar that ACES wrote something positive about President Obama, even going so far as to agree with him.

I'm not sure how these ideas of invading people's privacy to raise revenue enter a persons head- but this is a terrible idea. Being taxed by the mile one drives is very anti-American. As much as people complain about the roads (myself included), being able to jump in your vehicle and just go is a great visible representation of freedom. If people have to start factoring in the cost it takes to drive to another part of the state, or into another, to look at it's natural beauty or see family- it's going to be a serious turn off. American's love their vehicles, because it's brings a sense of pride and freedom.

With that being said: People using iPhones are discovering that their phone tracks and stores their travel in non-secured files, without permission of the owners. So the reaction of this will be a good gauge on how much American's will tolerate.

Rather
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Rather 04/23/11 - 04:19 pm
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We already have a mileage tax

We already have a mileage tax on motorists - it’s called federal gas tax and state gas tax. You are automatically paying by the miles you drive.

In Germany all the big trucks have satellite tracking systems which must always be on (they check this as the trucks pass through check points, and whopping fines occur if they are off). The miles are computed from the satellite data and extra taxes levied.

Watch out its coming.

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