Tuesday, January 23, 2007

As sure as the sun rises..

..the gubmint will find a new way to tax you. Beleaguered by the prospect of shrinking gas tax revenues brought about by more efficient automobiles, mandated use of non-taxed ethanol, and other circumstances of their own making, Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota democrats (I can't find any Minnesota republicans in the legislature that support it) have found a new way to make you pay: Tracking your mileage

Officials say finding an alternative to the slumping gas tax is at least 10 years away, but planning needs to start now.

Here's how a mileage fee system would work.

Instead of paying a tax for each gallon of fuel burned in Minnesota, vehicle drivers would pay a tax for each mile traveled.

The mileage fee idea is being tested in Oregon. Jim Whitty, who directs Oregon's Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding, says the test vehicles are fitted with a device that measures miles traveled.

Gas stations where drivers refuel are fitted with instruments to download the measurements.

"When they drive up to a fueling station, they can have their miles read. We're doing it electronically here now," he says.

Of course, what would a Minnesota-led and conceived tax be without an element of progressiveness and a pinch of class envy?

Minnesota House Transportation Finance Committee Chairman Bernie Lieder has supported the idea for years. Lieder, DFL-Crookston, is an engineer by training.

He says the technology to measure where drivers rack up their miles, whether in state or out of state, is mostly ready to go. Where the politics come in is what to charge.

Lieder and other mileage fee advocates say it's not fair for drivers of four-cylinder fuel sippers to have to pay the same rate as eight-cylinder guzzlers or the same as huge freight vehicles.

The solution, Lieder says, is different mileage rates.

"Units like a light car, a heavier car, a truck, an 18-wheeler, each one would have a different mileage rate," he says.

I heard on KARE-11 this evening that plans are in the works to have GPS transponders placed in cars, so as not to charge for miles driven in say, Wisconsin.

So, not only will there be a tax for every mile we drive, but Big Brother will also keep track of where we drive.

And if we're really lucky they'll find a way to simultaneously keep track of and tax all of the trans-fats that we happen to consume while on the road.

The era of big government is not over.

Hell, it's only beginning.