For lo these many years, the Democratic motorcade class has scolded American workers for driving gas-guzzling cars. Now that Americans have begun driving more fuel-efficient cars and driving less, how have the finger-waggers reacted? No, they are not planning a parade -- they already are working on a new tax on miles driven to make up for lost gasoline-tax revenue.
With the help of a six-year, $2.1 million federal grant, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski is moving forward with a proposal to tax Oregon drivers for the miles they drive. "As Oregonians drive less and demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, it is increasingly important that the state find a new way, other than the gas tax, to finance our transportation system," Kulongoski told the Albany Democrat Herald.
Why not simply raise the gas tax so that Hummer owners continue to pay more than drivers of four-cylinder put-puts?
"It's very difficult to raise the gas tax when the price of gasoline is so volatile," answered James Whitty, Kulongoski's point man on the Oregon Mileage Fee Concept. (In lieu of the term "concept," many Oregonians might prefer to substitute the word "squeeze.") Politically, Whitty explained, raising taxes has been untenable in Oregon and on Capitol Hill since 1993.
In November 2007, a task force released the findings of the Road User Fee Pilot Program. Guess what: It found that a road tax has more advantages than disadvantages. In that self-congratulatory tone perfected by bureaucrats who have succeeded in finding what they always planned on finding, Whitty noted in the report, "The Oregon Department of Transportation concludes that the Oregon Road User Fee Pilot Program tested the critical elements of the Oregon Mileage Concept and yielded the result -- Concept Proven."
Not so fast, buckaroo.
If the goal of the green brain trust is to reduce gas consumption, then Oregon shouldn't dump a tax that punishes guzzling and replace it with a tax that dings Hummers and hybrids alike. (Whitty noted that the state could choose to charge gas-burning wheels more per mile than itty-bitty cars. Hello. That's what the gasoline tax already does.)