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Tracking device could report your travels to government
By Al Everson
posted Sep 3, 2009 - 9:13:37am
Would you like to own and drive a car with a computer that would record your mileage and transmit it via satellite to a federal agency — perhaps the Internal Revenue Service? — which will bill you each year for the miles you travel?
This is not your father’s Oldsmobile — or Pontiac, Chrysler, Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda or Studebaker. Rather than simply paying a gasoline tax “hidden” in the price of each gallon of fuel purchased at the retail level, car owners in the future may be charged for each mile they go.
U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, says the Space Age know-how can be brought down to earth.
“The vehicle-per-mile [charge] is not feasible at this time, because you don’t have the technology in the vehicles,” Mica said. “We aren’t at that stage yet, but eventually you’ll have a chip in your car.”
The leap in technology for taxing drivers is coming, Mica said, because the Congress must find a new way to fund highway construction and upkeep, as well as to subsidize mass transit.
“Even an increase in gas taxes now will not solve the problem,” said Mica, a ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee.
Part of the problem is Americans are heeding calls to conserve fuel; another part of the problem comes from increasing numbers of cars with greater fuel economy.
“Every day, the fleet is getting more efficient,” Mica said. “They’re literally driving further and paying less, so the system will collapse.”
Mica said the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon is simply not bringing in sufficient revenues to repair the nation’s highways and bridges. The cash shortage became so acute last year, he noted, the Congress had to add $8 billion from general revenues to the Highway Transportation Trust Fund.
To compound the unforeseen side effect of the improved mileage of the newer vehicles, Mica predicted the decline in fuel-tax collections will accelerate because of the sour economy and the drive to alternative fuels.
Thus, he concluded, another means of raising the revenue necessary for roads linking the nation will be required. That new possibility may be devices that let Uncle Sam know how many miles a car or truck travels each year.
Asked if he and others in the Congress are ready to propose a high-tech mileage tax, Mica said public discontent with government makes the idea unfeasible for now, at least.
“They’ll be coming with pitchforks up the Capitol steps,” he said.
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