Vehicle-mileage tax is no Rx for highway needs

Here’s some refreshing news out of Washington. The latest fad in highway-funding circles — charging motorists a tax based on how many miles they drive each year — has not won the support of President Barack Obama. In fact, he apparently overruled one of his own Cabinet members in that regard.

During an interview last week, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood raised the possibility of a federal vehicle-mile tax to replace declining revenue from gasoline and diesel taxes.

But on Friday, Transportation Department spokeswoman Lori Irving stated unequivocally, “The policy of taxing motorists based on how many miles they have traveled is not and will not be Obama administration policy.”

Apparently, Irving’s statement was ordered by the White House in response to LaHood’s suggestion.

It’s fine by us.

We have already made clear our objections to the vehicle-mile tax, which was briefly considered by the Colorado Legislature as a means of increasing state highway funds. It was struck from the highway funding bill this month because of objections, primarily from Republican lawmakers.

There are a number of reasons to reject such a tax.

First, unless some convoluted formula is created that charges city dwellers more per mile than those in rural areas, a vehicle-mileage tax would punish people who live in isolated parts of the state and have to drive farther for just about everything.

It would also discourage Colorado residents from driving to tourist attractions within our state, while deriving no revenue from out-of-state tourists.

Worse, the privacy implications are frightening. According to one news report, a tax based on miles driven would require that every vehicle on the road — from a brand-new Lexus to a 1970s pickup truck — be equipped with global satellite positioning technology, a transponder, a clock and other gear to keep tabs on miles driven, when and on which highways.

Talk about Big Brother watching you.

The vehicle-mileage tax is a beast created by transportation officials who have legitimate concerns about the future of highway funding, but seem all too willing to overlook the multitude of problems such a tax would create, just so they might obtain additional money.

We’re happy to see that President Obama isn’t falling for that notion.


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