Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Now Let's Tax Good Behavior

Opinion Journal has a column by Brendan Miniter that tells of a proposed new tax in Oregon that is over the top. Link.
Oregon is worried that too many Honda Insights and Toyota Priuses hitting the roads will rob it of the cash it expects out of its 24-cent-a-gallon tax. So the Beaver State is studying ways to ensure that "hybrid" car owners pay their "fair share" of taxes for the miles they drive. That means allowing the taxman to catch up to hybrid owners just as often as he catches up to gas guzzling SUV drivers. [...]

[T]he state is looking to influence behavior in addition to raising revenue by implementing a "vehicle mileage tax." Under a VMT a motorist would pay a tax for each mile driven, probably around 1.25 cents. To administer this tax, a global positioning system would be mounted in each car. As a driver fuels up, the device would relay mileage information to the gas pump, which would calculate the VMT. A simple electronic odometer-reading device would do the trick, but Oregon is looking at GPS devices because they would also allow for charging higher VMT rates for miles driven in "congested" areas during rush hour or to exempt miles driven out of state.

This is a pure case of instituting Big Brother government in order to maximize taxes. We are supposed to give up all claims to privacy, allowing the state to track everywhere we drive, in order to tax the gas frugal the same as the gas guzzlers.

States used to justify taxes on cigarettes and alcohol as "sin taxes." If the reasoning used for this Oregon tax were to be applied more broadly, states should apply cigarette taxes and alcohol taxes to nonsmokers and nondrinkers in the name of "tax fairness." If buying a 50-mile-per-gallon car does not save you any gas tax, why should not smoking save you cigarette tax or not drinking save you alcohol tax? After all, the state needs your money.


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