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Name:Michael Patrick
Location:San Jose, California, United States

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Friday, November 19


Mileage Tax: Talk for Talk's Sake

So, you're a policy maker who wants people to drive less? Tax their mileage. Implement a capital-intensive system that uses sophisticated electronics, brand-new infrastructure, and law enforcement to prevent undercounting of mileage, or--

Just raise the gas tax already. This is how it's been done for decades with the same effects as the proposed mileage tax, except for one major detail: the per-gallon gas tax inherently rewards fuel efficiency. The less gas you use, the less money you spend--simple. Drive less, choose a light and/or efficient vehicle, and you will save.

Sure, tolls are a form of mileage taxation, and they're good for raising funds and regulating usage of selected roads. But the big thing right now for some reason is electronically tracking car usage on rush-hour freeways and country lanes alike. And, to promote energy efficiency, pollution prevention, and lighter cars that don't wreck the pavement, the authorities intend to put owners of thirstier, dirtier, heavier vehicles in higher "brackets." All this for what? To duplicate what we already can do with a simple legislature bill and governor's signature.

The idea of distance-based insurance, a very good idea to reduce the fixed costs of owning and operating a vehicle, also comes into this discussion, because infrastructure required for the mileage tax would enable mileage-based insurance as a side effect. But does a simpler method to keep a measure of distance driven not exist? A voluntarily installed mileage counter (voluntary being the key word) that, to prevent tampering, can only be read by a few people with special authorization?

This topic is just going to be a regular feature of the Why? blog if this needless, token "reform" continues. If the mileage tax is eventually implemented, it'll only be so that some politician can praise his/her own achievement.