Should the government tax your driving?

August 27, 2009 5:23:56 PM PDT
Now that 'Cash for Clunkers' has put thousands of newer vehicles on the road, there is a new problem. All of those fuel efficient cars mean less revenue from gas taxes and there is a controversial new plan out there to make up the difference, charging you based on how far you drive. Consider it a new source of funding to make up for gas tax money lost as Americans drive more fuel efficient cars. There could be a loss of at least $5 billion this year, says the Department of Transportation. A device in many cars holds the answer. Proposed federal legislation would use in-car GPS devices to track and tax miles traveled by motorists. It's an idea met with skepticism.

Driver Neal Immega said, "I regard it as being a, wow, an expensive solution with lots of breaking points and we're only going to get a tiny bit more."

Called the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Pilot Program, it works with a GPS device and charges the driver for the number of miles traveled. The information is relayed electronically at the pump. The system then deducts tax from the gas price. There would be protected personal privacy and finally, the owner would pay for the GPS device.

Driver Susan Delong doesn't have a GPS system, and doesn't plan to get one unless the government wants to give her one.

"They sure would (have to give me one) because I'm not buying one," she said.

The VMT has been tested in Portland, Oregon with 250 cars. The second phase, which hasn't started yet, would include 5,000 cars. The nationwide study program is the idea of Oregon lawmaker, US Representative Earl Blumenauer, who said in a statement to Eyewitness News, "A VMT system can better assess fees based on use of our roads and bridges as well as during peak times of congestion than a fee based on fuel consumption."

The state department of transportation says a smaller independent study has already happened in Texas. But some drivers say it's an issue of privacy.

"The government already has way too much information," Delong said. "They don't really need to know where I am and what I'm driving and how much gas I buy."

TxDOT says this proposed legislation is the latest in a long line of suggestions of what can be done to make up for money lost as drivers turn to more fuel efficient vehicles. But this idea is receiving a lot of resistance from drivers in Houston.

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