Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Baiting, Switching

Let's end the year on a real down note, with the idea from Oregon that Big Brother is going to ride with you (H/T Instapundit):

A year ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced it had demonstrated that a new way to pay for roads — via a mileage tax and satellite technology — could work.

Now Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he’d like the legislature to take the next step.

As part of a transportation-related bill he has filed for the 2009 legislative session, the governor says he plans to recommend “a path to transition away from the gas tax as the central funding source for transportation.”

What that means is explained on the governor’s website:

“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.”

According to the policies he has outlined online, Kulongoski proposes to continue the work of the special task force that came up with and tested the idea of a mileage tax to replace the gas tax.

The governor wants the task force “to partner with auto manufacturers to refine technology that would enable Oregonians to pay for the transportation system based on how many miles they drive.”

The online outline adds: “The governor is committed to ensuring that rural Oregon is not adversely affected and that privacy concerns are addressed.”
There are just a multitude of completely ludicrous things.

First, politicians and government leaders have been trying for lord knows how long to encourage people to make the switch to more fuel efficient cars. One of those ways was through tax breaks and other perks (you may remember that Virginia once allowed you to get a special plate for your hybrid, for example, that allowed you to drive in the HOV lanes regardless of the number of passengers you had). The idea was to promote fuel efficiency. At the same time of course, that meant states were decreasing the amount of revenue available to them through the collection of gas taxes; the law of diminishing returns at force once again.

So now that the social engineering aspect of this is done, let's stick it to these people by implementing a new tax based on usage instead of the current model. (to say nothing of the combined proposed 2-cent increase in gas taxes for non-GPS equipped cars). Your typical government bait and switch program.

Of course, that's not the only issue with Kulongoski's cockamamie idea:
  • The privacy aspects alone are, of course, disturbing. Under this scenario, the government could track to the movements of any car registered to the state of Oregon (or any other locality that participated in such a scheme). The report indicates that the "concept requires not transmission of vehicle travel locations" but says nothing about whether or not that capability exists, or if and how other agencies of government would be able to use this information (i.e. the police).
  • The plan seems dependent on "partnering with auto manufacturers" to develop this technology. Last time I checked, the auto manufacturers were getting bailouts just to keep the lights on. That doesn't really give them enough time to save the state of Oregon from itself.
  • And finally, aren't there other sources of revenue that Oregon could tap to overcome the supposed shortfall in transportation funding? Couldn't Oregon make up the shortfall by reducing other, more discretionary spending (yes, I know how liberal Oregon is, but let's pretend, OK). Or,how much could Oregonians have saved (and been spared from such a silly idea) if Kulongoski supported the privatization of certain elements of Oregon's transportation infrastructure? And how much more money could that save as opposed to proposing such a pie in the sky project?
Oregon's idea for GPS-based taxation is disturbing on a multitude of levels, not the least of which is the idea that states want Big Brother to ride with you everywhere you go. Leaving the silly policy making issues aside, that fundamental privacy issue should give pause to both left and right thinkers alike...

(Crossposted)

2 comments:

Daniel said...

As an enhancement to this issue, we should remember an incident with a rental auto firm in New England states somewhere.
They hit a renter with an additional $400 charge upon return of the vehicle, stating that he drove over the speed limit excessivley.
No cops were involved before, during or after.
The renter, upon return, learned his speed became known to the rental firm due to a GPS system in the vehicle he used.

Daniel said...

In case anyone thinks my memory is faulty, here's a news article about the Acme Rental in Connecticut about this GPS tracking & billing.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2001/07/03/gps_speeding_010703.html

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