The Globe reports that state transportation secretary Dan Grabauskas floated the idea of a "use tax" for cars – that is, a tax that is tied to how many miles you drive your car. Cars would be tracked with global positioning system technology and, presumably, you’d periodically get a bill informing you how many miles you drove and how much money you owe. Something like this is apparently under serious consideration in Oregon, California, and Washington.
Let’s consider the ways in which this is a terrible idea.
- It has "Big Brother" written all over it – I don’t see how it could work without every car in the state having to install some sort of transponder that a satellite could pick up on and track. In other words, the system would always know where you are and where you’ve been. Yikes.
- It would be expensive – all those transponders and all that fancy satellite technology are not free.
- And this is the big one: it is totally unnecessary. If you want to tax people who use their car more, it’s really easy: RAISE THE GAS TAX. The gas tax accomplishes exactly the same thing – if you drive more miles, you use more gas. And it does it in a far better way than this proposed "use tax," because it effectively charges drivers a lower rate per mile if they drive cars that get good gas mileage. So the gas tax serves both as an assessment on people who drive a lot, and as an incentive to buy a car that isn’t a gas guzzler.
It seems highly unlikely that His Excellency the Governor will go along with any of this, since his carefully nuanced position on taxes is something like "no-way-not-in-a-million-years-not-for-any-reason-come-hell-or-high-water." But Grabauskas should know better than to give even the time of day to an idea as silly as this one.