By on September 14, 2009

A Member of Congress proposes to use taxpayer money to fund the development of technology to track motorists as part of a new form of taxation. US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) introduced H.R. 3311 earlier this year to appropriate $154,500,000 for research and study into the transition to a per-mile vehicle tax system. The “Road User Fee Pilot Project” would be administered by the US Treasury Department. This agency in turn would issue millions in taxpayer-backed grants to well-connected commercial manufacturers of tolling equipment to help develop the required technology. Within eighteen months of the measure’s passage, the department would file an initial report outlining the best methods for adopting the new federal transportation tax.

“Oregon has successfully tested a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fee, and it is time to expand and test the VMT program across the country,” Blumenauer said in a statement on the bill’s introduction. “A VMT system can better assess fees based on use of our roads and bridges, as well as during times of peak congestion, than a fee based on fuel consumption. It is time to get creative and find smart ways to rebuild and renew America’s deteriorating infrastructure.”

In 2006, the Oregon Department of Transportation completed its own study of how to collect revenue from motorists with a new form of tax that, like the existing fuel excise tax, imposes a greater charge on drivers the more that they drive. The pilot project’s final report summed up the need for a VMT tax.

“Unfortunately, there is a growing perception among members of the public and legislators that fuel taxes have little to do with road programs and therefore should be considered ‘just another form of taxation,’” the March 2006 report stated. “By itself, this situation appears to be preventing any increases in fuel tax rates from being put into effect.”

The money diverted from the fuel excise tax on non-road related projects must be made up for with a brand new VMT tax, the report argued. Merely indexing the gas tax to inflation or improvements in fleet gas mileage was rejected as “imprecise.” Instead, the report urged a mandate for all drivers to install GPS tracking devices that would report driving habits to roadside Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scanning devices.

Blumenauer is a long-time advocate of bicycling and mass transit in Congress. Many of his largest campaign donors stand to benefit from his newly introduced legislation. Honeywell International, for example, is a major manufacturer RFID equipment. The company also happens to be the second biggest contributor in the current cycle to Blumenauer’s Political Action Committee (PAC), the Committee for a Livable Future. Another top-ten donor, Accenture, is a specialist in the video tolling field.

H.R. 3311 awaits a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee. A copy of the bill is available in a 170k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File HR 3311 (Congress of the United States, 9/14/2009)

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50 Comments on “Uncle Sam Eyes Vehicle Tracking Tax...”


  • avatar
    tced2

    We already have a “pay per mile” system.

    Some people get more miles than others for what they pay.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Great. Now they don’t need cameras anymore to prevent speeding. They can just measure the time between tracking points, and see how fast everyone is going. That they also can see WHERE everyone is going is only an added bonus that must come in handy for every law enforcement agency in town. Better than the old world technology of tatooing numbers into peoples forearms.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Brilliant! It’s just crazy enough to get up. User pays. The USA perfected that crazy ideology, now you can eat it. “Sharing” the cost of roads would be socialism otherwise don’t you know!

  • avatar
    RangerM

    PeteMoran :

    Brilliant! It’s just crazy enough to get up. User pays. The USA perfected that crazy ideology, now you can eat it.

    Get rid of all Federal and State Fuel (ie. road) taxes, and I’m right there with you.

    Otherwise, it’s a revenue scheme. The money won’t be used for roads anymore than any other Federal money is used for its intended purpose.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Sooooo, if Oregon already did a study, why does the Federal Government need to spend $154m to copy it and come to the same conclusions??

    So, does the government actually expect citizens to line up to have a tracking devise installed in their vehicles? Really? I don’t see that happening.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    I’ll agree that it’s all about the revenue, however they also love the power that it brings. It’s just a modern form of “Your papers please!”

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    That should be interesting if it comes to fruition. A lot of people, not all, but a lot, are against the proposed health care reforms because the don’t want the government knowing their private medical affairs.

    So who drives where and when should be REAL popular.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Another great idea from the UK it seems. They are working on a variety of systems including RFID tags in cars for such purposes.

    Come on folks, with GPS, On-star and ez-pass technology being introduced it was just a matter of time before someone got the idea for on demand taxation of your movement in a car.

    I won’t be installing any transponder on my bicycle.

    And think of all the data this brings in. Your car will have an IP address anyone can bring up ona screen. Insurance companies will DEMAND the information as well. Progressive tested a by mile plan in Texas. The only people who thought it was great were those who stayed home or never went far. Everyone else found out what happens when the insurance company gets to know how far and fast your drive.

  • avatar
    RichardD

    PeteMoran : Brilliant! It’s just crazy enough to get up. User pays.

    You mean like how people who use cars pay the gasoline tax? And how absolutely nobody who doesn’t use cars is subjected to paying this tax? Isn’t that rather the perfect definition of a user fee? And, even better, it has a “green” component by punishing bad gas mileage.

    If you really supported “user pays” you’d be crying to have bicyclists be taxed per mile and bus riders to pay not just the cost of their hyper-subsidized mode of transit, but the cost of the roads on which they travel as well.

    The toll industry engages in doublespeak of the highest order.

  • avatar
    RichardD

    PeteMoran
    Ack, where’d the edit button go? My sarcasm-detection is a bit off this morning.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Of course this is just a thinly veiled way to keep tabs on all of us. If things keep going this way, we could be looking at our freedom in the rearview mirror. This is just sad.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    And there are some of us (heh) who know EXACTLY how to jam GPS (at least for our cars).

    Keep it up congress, there is a reason you folks had to take political science. Answer: it was the no-brainer way to make it through college without ever being required to think.

  • avatar
    MidLifeCelica

    Aaand…there we are. The precise moment when the inmates have taken over the asylum. It doesn’t make any money for their RFID lobbyist buddies, but how hard would it be to pass a law that specifically states that all fuel taxes collected must be used directly on transportation infrastructure? Make a priority list of things the money MUST be spent on, so that only when all potholes are filled, all bridges are safe, and all the lines on the road are bright and shiny new can any money be diverted to the ‘Museum of the History of Asphalt’ in their home state.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    The gas tax is SO much better than a per mile tax.

    a: Its far easier to administer. This counts for a lot.

    b: It encourages more fuel efficient vehicles.

    c: Less fuel efficient vehicles are for the most part, heavier, and heavier vehicles do much more road damage than light vehicles.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    God! We love to elect idiots and amateurs in America, don’t we.

    Obviously, if you want to collect more per mile, just: A) eliminate CAFE regs B) raise the fuel tax…even more.

    These idiots will spend a billion to make a hundred thousand….all of it OUR money$

    Throw the bums out!

  • avatar
    volvo

    Don’t worry Nicholas

    The gas tax won’t go anywhere. In fact it may go up a bit. The mileage tax will just be added to discourage any unnecessary driving.

  • avatar
    twotone

    Keep it simple and build the per-mile tax into the price of gasoline. Oh wait, we are already doing that.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    seabrjim

    That Orwell fella was pretty smart. So we’re not kooks after all. Hey Winston, where did you drive today?

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    We could do to electric cars what New Zealand did for diesel.

    In NZ there is no tax at the pump for diesel. Instead, diesel vehicles pre-pay for a mileage sticker. If you get pulled over by the police, they check your odometer against your sticker. If the sticker exceeds the odometer, you get a nice fat fine.

    We could do a variation on this. Continue to tax petrol and diesel at the pump. Then create a sticker for alternative fuel system cars such as all electric and hybrids. That way they too pay their fair share of road taxes.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    seabrjim – +1

    We have always been at war with EastAsia…and their damned tires.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    ten seconds googling brings up…

    probably a (lack of) power issue if you aren’t close enough…

  • avatar
    kamiller42

    If you live in the district of Earl Blumenauer, fire him. This bill proves he does not have the mental qualifications to serve in congress.

    The per mile tax already exists; it’s called a fuel tax. You drive more, you use more fuel. You use more fuel, you pay more fuel taxes. Nothing high tech needed. No kickbacks from equipment manufacturers. Exercise K.I.S.S., Keep It Simple Stupid.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) introduced H.R. 3311 earlier this year to appropriate $154,500,000 for research and study into the transition to a per-mile vehicle tax system.

    That’s like paying the executioner to sharpen the blade.

  • avatar
    pgmikes

    “The money diverted from the fuel excise tax on non-road related projects must be made up for with a brand new VMT tax, the report argued.”

    How about first you stop diverting the road tax to non-road related projects, you morons!!!

  • avatar
    KenB

    dwford says:So, does the government actually expect citizens to line up to have a tracking devise installed in their vehicles? Really? I don’t see that happening.Yes, at the DMV when they renew their registrations. If the states fail to require it, they will forfeit federal highway assistance.

  • avatar
    TurboGoodness

    Nothing wrong with this proposal that couldn’t be corrected with a tree and a rope. Assembled properly to stretch the neck of Mr. Earl Blumenauer, of course.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Apart from the whole Orwellian nature of the GPS tracking system, I have to ask why it’s even neccessary? Wouldn’t it make more sense to require you to get an odometer inspection each year?

    Let’s see, on March 31st, 2009, your vehicle had 35,191 miles, on March 31st 2010 it has 51,202. Calculate the difference and tax accordingly.

    Not that I’m in favor of these schemes (I’m not) I just can’t understand the whole “we have to implant a GPS device in each vehicle in order to track the mileage” assumption. That just seems like a blank check written to whichever tech company wants to sell the government a bunch of technology crap.

    Bottom line, we already have a device to measure the mileage driven, it’s called an odometer and it would probably be much more difficult to “spoof” than some fancy electronic gadget.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    It doesn’t make any money for their RFID lobbyist buddies, but how hard would it be to pass a law that specifically states that all fuel taxes collected must be used directly on transportation infrastructure

    We, the citizens, tried that in California through our state’s proposition process. The politicians ignored the law and continued to divert gas tax money to other “needs.” We, the subjects, then voted on and overwhelming passed an amendment to the State Constitution requiring that gas taxes be spent on transportation (allows money for subsidizing mass transit). The politicians still counldn’t keep there mits off the gas tax to the tune of $2 billion over the past two years.

    “Unfortunately, there is a growing perception among members of the public and legislators that fuel taxes have little to do with road programs and therefore should be considered ‘just another form of taxation,’”

    Gee, why would we think that?

    The money diverted from the fuel excise tax on non-road related projects must be made up for with a brand new VMT tax, the report argued.

    Nice to see somebody willig to admit it, in writing no less.

  • avatar
    gawilliams

    We should just double the tax on tires, that way those who drive more and need to buy more tires will have to pay more. Oh, wait… Obama is already implementing that…

  • avatar
    dennymack

    As an Oregonian, I apologize to the nation for this idiocy. Our bad!
    So, it will cost more to set up than it will bring in,its very birth is shrouded by conflicts of interest,it will drive civil liberties folks up the wall, lead to inevitable cases of abuse, create one more financial hurdle for poor people who want to drive, not accurately assess the cost of the miles to the system (does a big van create more wear than a small car, Yep!)and it will actually be LESS green than a gas tax.

    But on top of that it solves a problem created by Congress’ inability to show discipline in the allocation of funds. Sure Earl, have the citizens fix the problems Congress creates. We drive cars, so we deserve to be punished.

  • avatar
    Neb

    You know an idea is bad when all the gearheads are saying “Y’know, it’d be so much better if they just raised the gasoline tax.” In addition to everything else, it seems like this plan would be a security nightmare. A GPS that generates a database of everywhere you drive? That can tell others when you’ve been speeding or not? It would start by strapped municipalities wanting access to the DB to issue traffic tickets, and then the police would want it to track suspects, people would file subpoenas to see the DB to get extra evidence that their wife is cheating on them…

    ANd those RFID chips! Nike tried this, and a side effect is that you can be tracked by others, up to 60 ft away:

    http://news.cnet.com/NikeiPod-raises-RFID-privacy-concerns/2100-1029_3-6143606.html

    It’s crazy, but it is stark raving lunacy since as other posters here have pointed out, you could achieve the same goals by just raising the gas tax. Argh.

  • avatar
    creamy

    wait until they add the provision that you must buy a car in order to participate in the system, and if you don’t buy a car to participate in the system then you must pay a fine…to participate in the system.

  • avatar
    John C.

    As I understand it, California is interested in this also, and they like to think that as California goes, so goes the country (and they are, sadly, right, entirely too often). The reason why they were interested is because the state’s admonitions to the drivers to drive hybrids and other low-fuel-consumption vehicles worked, which caused a drop in gas-tax revenues. So, you encourage a behavior, and then punish EVERYone when people start doing what you SAID you wanted.
    But this can, and will, go far beyond road-use taxes. Given the government’s (at all levels) proven history of mission creep, it would only be a matter of time before the computers which track your positions would also track your speed, and compare it against a map of speed limit zones, and automatically issue speeding tickets, like red light cameras do. I doubt that it would go as far as adding the ticket fine(s) into the gas purchase, although you know that someone in the government will try to take credit for proposing just that (it would violate due process, but that doesn’t seem to matter much to politicians these days). And a small step past this would be to require a governor on vehicles which would not allow the vehicle to move faster than the speed limit on a given piece of road. It is certainly technologically achievable already, and it’s all for safety, right?
    There are those who will say I am throwing up straw men here, but consider the possibilities of the technology, and how we know politicians have already acted, when given a theoretical ability that no one expected them to ever use…

  • avatar
    jmatt

    In this brave new world of Hope and Change, Big Brutha will know everywhere you go and fine you for doing so.

    And now all you dopey hybrid buyers will pay twice: once with the premium on your vehicle for its hybridiness, and again with the new government surveillance tax.

    When the left is done killing freedom, will the last true American please turn out the lights. Thank you.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    creamy>

    I’m wondering how they will install this in bicycles, motorcycles, skateboards, Rollerblades gym shoes, ATV’s, boats, etc.

    Or do those not count?

    Also: Is the per/mile tax the same between vehicles?

    The same between a semi & a suv ?
    Between a SUV & a subcompact car?
    How about between a subcompact car & motorcycle ?
    motorcycle & bicycle ?
    etc
    etc

    If they just taxed gym shoes & boots, everyone would be covered, except the outlaws going barefoot!

  • avatar
    wsn

    # Nicholas Weaver :
    September 14th, 2009 at 10:19 am

    The gas tax is SO much better than a per mile tax.

    a: Its far easier to administer. This counts for a lot.
    b: It encourages more fuel efficient vehicles.
    c: Less fuel efficient vehicles are for the most part, heavier, and heavier vehicles do much more road damage than light vehicles.

    ——————————————
    But you forgot to mention where a per mile tax is better than gas tax:

    a: It allows Chairman Obama to know your whereabouts. I mean, it’s good for national security, in case your are a terrorist.
    b: It will create more jobs for people who support the Chairman. You mentioned that it’s not easy to administer; more manpower is needed.
    c: It will help municipalities to issue more tickets. And they don’t even need to provide a photo as evidence. I mean, tracking device administered by the government won’t have any error.

  • avatar
    dean

    wsn: I must have missed the part of the article where it said that the bill was sponsored by Obama. Please find that for me.

  • avatar
    snsr

    wsn cut the “Chairman” crap, seriously. Makes you sound like an imbecile.

    I’ll never put a government tracking device in my car. Ever. Under any circumstances.

    Though I guess it bears mentioning that most cell phones have GPS and are always reporting their location..

  • avatar
    jschaef481

    Wow…just wow…

  • avatar
    tedward

    if it ever gets here, it simply will not make it into my car, and I will remove it from any new purchase. If my insurance company calls to propose their own tracking service, I will fire them on that phone call. That’s all there is to it actually.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Martin Albright…

    If only that were so, the price for old Volvo 240′s would go up 1000%.

    There isn’t a one out there that hasn’t had their odometer kick the bucket at some point. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • avatar

    see I already feel like the governments tracking me, I wonder how sketched out am I going to be when it’s a fact of life.

  • avatar
    topgun

    All of worrying about possible privacy issues and “Big Brother” looking over your shoulder etc etc. I say, don’t bother… The privacy ship sailed off a long time ago. If the govt wishes to find you or track you, they don’t need any GPS trackers in a vehicle to do so. That cellphone in your pocket is more than enough.

  • avatar
    topgun

    To all those worrying about possible privacy issues and “Big Brother” looking over your shoulder etc etc. I say, don’t bother… The privacy ship sailed off a long time ago. If the govt wishes to find you or track you, they don’t need any GPS trackers in a vehicle to do so. That cellphone in your pocket is more than enough.

  • avatar
    vento97

    Rod Panhard:

    A lot of people, not all, but a lot, are against the proposed health care reforms because the don’t want the government knowing their private medical affairs.

    You mean like the people carrying the “take your government hands off my Medicare” signs?

  • avatar
    vento97

    topgun:
    The privacy ship sailed off a long time ago.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who came to that conclusion. It’s a by-product of voters electing candidates from the same two-party monopoly who has been sliding us down this slippery slope for more than a century now.

    This government is a reflection of the people. And to the voters who have been supporting the two-party monopoly – I only have this to say:

    “You got the government you deserve…”

    “Democrats and Republicans – First-world prosperity for themselves, third-world prosperity for the rest of us….”

  • avatar
    jkevinm

    I have 3 reactions:

    1. This from the state that doesn’t let you pump your own gas? I am surprised they even let you drive your own car, and not have to hire a professional driver.

    2. In Oklahoma, we already pay for our main roads through tolls, will we be refunded the miles we drive on toll roads?

    3. I would be in favor of paying an extra fee that would allow me to drive up to 10 mph over the posted speed limit on interstate highways. I would pay $200 a year for this.

  • avatar
    KeithF

    It isn’t “green” because the gas tax, the CAFE standards and the C4C are all set up for that.

    It isn’t to track your mileage, because odometers can do that.

    Police state, pure and simple. That’s what they want.

  • avatar
    CypressNut

    Yet another attempt at wealth re-distribution. The assumption being, that the more you earn, the more you drive…

    But, who’s looking out for the mobile taco stands? I am starting the MTT-PAC (Mobile Tasty Taco Political Action Comittee) and will lobby Congress against such a punitive tax against our members.

    Who knows, maybe I will get some free sausage/egg tacos for my troubles.

    CypressNut
    Founding Member, MTT-PAC

  • avatar
    roots549

    For years now, we would have had more electric or alternative fuel vehicles on the road, if our governments, state and fed, could have figured out an effective way to make up revenue lost to less gas being used.

    For the most part, this is about revenue. If people are making their own energy via solar, wind, whatever, then using that energy for transportation, the state is out revenue. The very survival of state bureaucracies is being threatened, so no alt energy concepts will thrive, until it can be managed efficiently, taxed enough.

    As for thousands of more devices tracking us, icing on the cake for those in power.

    We are nearing ruin, complete instability in our country. The US government is an entity hell bent on supporting themselves and their sponsors. If it were about the environment, we would see enormous subsidies on fuel efficient vehicles, off grid energy efforts, fantastic research grants. It’s not about carbon, it’s about money and the power of the state. There are many options on how individuals can work towards regaining liberties, don’t expect any legit organization be in line, 100% with your personal beliefs, but find one that comes close and be active. Though I am not entirely supportive of their domestic agenda, campaignforliberty is who I throw some weight behind, trust them more than are status quo leadership.


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