Our view: Creepy miles-traveled tax can be left at the roadsideWasn’t this vehicle-miles-traveled tax idea left at the roadside where it belongs some three years ago? That’s about when the pricey proposal first was made to not only create an unwelcome new tax but to make federal law a troubling level of government intrusion.
Wasn’t this vehicle-miles-traveled tax idea left at the roadside where it belongs some three years ago? That’s about when the pricey proposal first was made to not only create an unwelcome new tax but to make federal law a troubling level of government intrusion.
Americans were driving less and driving vehicles that used less fuel. As a result they were contributing less in gas taxes, leaving the government scrambling for revenue, and new sources of revenue, to spend on road and highway maintenance.
So Washington came up with a vehicle-miles-traveled tax, or VMT tax, that would assess every car on the road based on the number of miles it’s driven. To track that, every vehicle would need to be equipped with a government gadget to count miles, to determine whether the miles were being logged on interstate highways or on secondary roads and to then beam the information to government officials so they could tax accordingly.
Not trying to sound big-brother paranoid, but
wouldn’t such technology also allow vehicles to be tracked period — with the potential for a massive invasion of privacy?
The price tag three years ago to get this bad idea rolling was half a trillion dollars, and it wasn’t clear whether that included the installation of the onboard gadgets. New cars could suddenly become a little more expensive as a result. And the best-case scenario for retrofitting existing cars would be an inconvenient stop at a car shop.
Hard-working commuters getting to and from work would be hit hardest by such a mileage-based tax. Also, more-rural areas and smaller towns like Duluth would find themselves bearing the brunt of funding the nation’s road projects. That’s because convenient public transportation isn’t available in such places the way it is in larger cities where residents can hop a subway to get around — and avoid the new tax.
“This VMT tax … could devastate our tourist industry,” the Brainerd, Minn., Dispatch opined this week, sounding an alarm tourism-rich Duluth, the North Shore and elsewhere can heed. “Midwest vacationers planning on driving (here) might have second thoughts because of the increased cost of a vacation due to a VMT tax. … Simple tasks such as grocery shopping, dropping the kids off at soccer practice, or going to and from a medical procedure would be racking up miles, with the government monitoring each mile traveled in order to get more tax revenue.”
With Congress still considering a VMT tax as part of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act of 2013, U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, who represents Duluth and the 8th Congressional District, introduced an amendment to block it. The amendment received bipartisan support late last month.
Here’s hoping that this time can be the last time we hear about a mileage-based tax on cars and trucks.
Infrastructure investment is needed, sure. But it’s not needed so badly new taxes have to be created to pay for it. And it’s certainly not necessary enough for us to allow, or tolerate, a creepy level of government intrusion into our vehicles and personal lives.