House adds language to block development of mileage tax to Transportation bill

posted at 11:21 am on June 28, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

And so the idea that almost everyone professes to hate but that keeps mysteriously returning gets banished again — for now.  Despite protestations that the Obama administration opposes the idea of a vehicle mileage tax (VMT) to augment the gasoline tax whose revenues have been declining because of fuel-efficiency standards and decreased mobility in a poor economy, the proposed Transportation bill had $300 million in funding for development of the VMT … just in case, apparently, it starts to grow on people.  Freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) successfully amended the bill to block any funding related to VMT:

The House has approved an amendment that would prevent the Secretary of Transportation from exploring raising new highway revenues by taxing cars for each mile they drive.

Members are considering the 2013 spending bill for the Transportation Department and other agencies, and late Wednesday, they accepted an amendment from Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) that would block any money in the bill from being used to explore a so-called Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax system. The House approved the language by voice vote.

“There is an important need to come up with new, better ideas on how to appropriately fund our highway trust fund system,” Cravaack said. “However, I’m here to tell you today that the concept of using a Vehicle Miles Traveled fee system is not one of those better ideas.”

Cravaack said such a system would hurt rural drivers, cost a lot to implement, since it would require devices in each car to track how many miles have been driven, and could impinge on privacy rights.

No kidding.  I’ve written a few times about the Big Brother aspects of the VMT, which would require either that drivers keep extensive logs of their travels, or that GPS or other devices would have to be installed in passenger vehicles and accessible by government officials on demand.  Two months ago, I wrote about the curious aspects of the MAP-21 legislation that dealt with the effort to make passenger-vehicle  “black boxes” (technically known as “event data recorders,” or EDRs) mandatory starting in 2015:

I suppose this is based on the OnStar system, which relays GPS coordinates to a call center when airbags deploy, but that is a private transaction between the owner and the service.  This is supposedly a mandate for event-data recorders, not for transmitters and ongoing two-way communications.  What would a black box have to do with emergency response if all they do is record?  How much surveillance would these EDRs allow, anyway?

I suspect that this is an effort by the Senate to plow the road for a mileage tax.  With gasoline tax revenues expected to drop with the advent of electric and hybrid vehicles (a large assumption, by the way), Democrats have been looking for ways to recoup the lost revenue.  They have repeatedly discussed and occasionally proposed instituting a mileage tax, which would either force drivers to keep extensive records of their travel or to add a device that calculates mileage and transmits it to the government.  Forcing manufacturers to include EDRs would give future Congresses the device necessary for this step; all it would take would be a future modification to Title 49, part 563 to require mileage collection.  There doesn’t appear to be any other pressing reason to add EDRs to the family car.

If the House passes the Transportation bill with Cravaack’s amendment intact, the Senate will have to do the same in order for this bar to take effect.  That seems doubtful to me, as Democrats have been looking longingly at the VMT for years as a way to ensure revenue from drivers.  The House will have to remain firm in conference committee, which means this bears watching.  We may need at some point to rethink the revenue stream for transportation-related projects, but it shouldn’t involve the installation of tracking devices on vehicles and further invasions of privacy for drivers, especially at the federal level when most traffic never crosses state lines at all.


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So, did I miss anything yet this morning?

Bmore on June 28, 2012 at 11:23 AM

Taxes! Taxes everywhere!!

MikeknaJ on June 28, 2012 at 11:24 AM

Taxation, despite Representation. That is what our Republic has become.

search4truth on June 28, 2012 at 11:25 AM

They could claim it was not a tax, pass it, and then have it upheld as a tax by the USSC. Nah! That will never work…

Blake on June 28, 2012 at 11:26 AM

At this point I am not sure any of this really matters anymore. Given the democrats propensity to lie and break the law to achieve our goals and conservatives attempts to follow the rules to achieve the goals it seems we are doomed to failure anyway.

The democrats will get any VMT in the end just as they got the mandate. It is hard to achieve any success when the other side has no restrictions on what actions the will take to achieve theirs.

Skwor on June 28, 2012 at 11:26 AM

At this point I am not sure any of this really matters anymore. Given the democrats propensity to lie and break the law to achieve their goals and conservatives attempts to follow the rules to achieve the goals it seems we are doomed to failure anyway.

The democrats will get any VMT in the end just as they got the mandate. It is hard to achieve any success when the other side has no restrictions on what actions the will take to achieve theirs.

Sorry to double post. edited for errors.

Skwor on June 28, 2012 at 11:27 AM

Well then how about a “not driving” tax? If they can tax you for not buying health insurance, they can tax you for not driving.

Thanks a lot, Roberts.

rbj on June 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Let’s have GPS devices that allow us to remove them and leave them at home all year and say we never drove anywhere!

If they need money, hey here’s an idea… Repeal ObamaCare and maybe then people can get back to work and pay taxes!!!!!!

jeffn21 on June 28, 2012 at 11:32 AM

Oh also note the leaders within the democratic party feel about half of the American citizenry who have opinions that they disagree with.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/06/how-the-dnc-is-celebrating-127543.html

Skwor on June 28, 2012 at 11:32 AM

So trucking companies would be hit hard, they would pass the hurt on to the companies who use them. That would be grocery stores and the like. Therefore, groceries will go up more, hurting the common American. Democrats have no need to worry about it because they have no cars and gets food stamps, I guess.

TXMomof3 on June 28, 2012 at 11:33 AM

You are mandated to live to closer to your place of employment….

Oil Can on June 28, 2012 at 11:35 AM

Good job Chip!! I am sure the man he defeated would not have held firm on this!!

Khun Joe on June 28, 2012 at 11:35 AM

Strangely, I’m in favor of taxing electric cars on a mileage basis. How else would they pay for the roads they’re driving on?

strictnein on June 28, 2012 at 11:36 AM

One of the principle ideas of the gas tax was an implied reward to good citizens for buying fuel efficient cars. Saving the environment and all. This is galling to see them try to stick it to us without even a “good citizen” hook or environmental buzz for the greens.

DumboTheAvenger on June 28, 2012 at 11:40 AM

I don’t even care anymore.

Mr. Prodigy on June 28, 2012 at 11:41 AM

A VMT? Hell, why not.

I pay state and federal tax on gas, a fee to a private company to use the toll road, an tax for an inspection that is laughable, a registration tax that includes a tax for tinted windows…why the hell not add another tax to driving? After all I could always take the non-existent light rail or bicycle 60 miles a day.

CorporatePiggy on June 28, 2012 at 11:41 AM

rbj on June 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Shhh!

Don’t give them any more ideas, please….

notropis on June 28, 2012 at 11:41 AM

Well then how about a “not driving” tax? If they can tax you for not buying health insurance, they can tax you for not driving.

Thanks a lot, Roberts.

rbj on June 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Indeed

Bitter Clinger on June 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM

The people who like these taxes tend to be people who get driven around by other people. When was the last time you saw a Congressman commuting by bus?

CorporatePiggy on June 28, 2012 at 11:43 AM

They never stop. We have mini-dictators running our country.

conservative pilgrim on June 28, 2012 at 11:43 AM

Well then how about a “not driving” tax? If they can tax you for not buying health insurance, they can tax you for not driving.

Thanks a lot, Roberts.

rbj on June 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Can they tax school districts for not teaching their students the dangers of Global Warming?

Oil Can on June 28, 2012 at 11:44 AM

Ed, thirty comments or bust?

Bmore on June 28, 2012 at 11:46 AM

How far we have come…America 1776 – 2012

NapaConservative on June 28, 2012 at 11:48 AM

Hybrid and electric cars weigh at least as much as a similarly sized car, which means they create the same amount of wear on the highway. They also take up the same amount of space, which means more traffic means more money for highways.

Here’s how I’d solve this problem of obtaining the required revenues without resorting to GPS-based mileage tracking.

1) Set a two-tier gas tax. One for cars that get less than the current corporate average fuel economy goal, and a higher tax for those that exceed it.

2) Put an identifier chip in all new cars that identifies it as tier one or tier two, which will be read by the pump and set it to charge the appropriate tax. The identifier chip would not contain any information on the owner or ANY GPS data, just the make and model of car.

3) Electric cars would be charged a road use tax based on the amount of electricity consumed when charging. The car’s systems would measure the amount of electricity input through the charging plug while charging at home, and signal the home’s smart meter that this electricity was for the car. The utility company would then apply the road tax to the electric bill.

Reno_Dave on June 28, 2012 at 11:49 AM

The ironic portion is that a VMT taxes gas guzzlers as much as fuel efficient cars.

After the obamacare ruling, anything is now possible. They could start taxing every exhale.

aniptofar on June 28, 2012 at 11:50 AM

the current gas tax IS a mileage tax, just without the unconstitutional ability to track citizens

phreshone on June 28, 2012 at 11:55 AM

I have an idea about how they can get around the ‘declining’ highway revenues: why don’t they stop funding everything that has nothing to do with highways and that wasn’t the original intent of the gas tax, such as public transport railroad projects, ‘smart’ growth “alternatives”, and public transportation that can’t survive without a subsidy?

ptcamn on June 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM

So much for summer recovery III – “We have a Republic, if we can keep it” – BF. Sorry we’ve let you down Ben.

kirkill on June 28, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Well then how about a “not driving” tax? If they can tax you for not buying health insurance, they can tax you for not driving.

Thanks a lot, Roberts.

rbj on June 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Here are some possibilities:

Not Smoking Tax
Not Purchasing Smoking Cessation Devices Tax
Not Having A Baby Tax
Having a Baby Tax
Not Driving Tax
Driving Tax
Not Breathing Tax (applies to dead people and “breath holders”)
Breathing Tax (everyone else)
Not Buying Liquor Tax
Prostitution Tax
Not Prostituting Tax
CO2 Emitter Tax
Not Emitting CO2 Tax (dead people only, again)
Blogging Tax
Not Blogging Tax
Left-handed Tax
Not Left-Handed Tax
Right Handed Tax
Not Right Handed Tax
Sitting Down Tax
Not Sitting Down Tax
Standing Up Tax
Not Standing Up Tax
Laying Down Tax
Not Laying Down Tax
Married Tax
Not Married Tax
Being Single Tax
Not Being Single Tax

Where does it stop?

BobMbx on June 28, 2012 at 11:59 AM

it would require devices in each car to track how many miles have been driven

I thought we already had such a device. It’s called an Odometer.

At least in California, you already get your odometer checked when you have your state-mandated smog inspection done on your vehicle. In fact, if you combined the two you could get taxed based on total pollution emitted and we could do away with minimum vehicle emission requirements completely. Want to keep that ’57 Chevy on the street but only drive it 100 miles a year? You could probably afford it. Want to commute every day to work in it? Few people would want to pay the premium.

Socratease on June 28, 2012 at 11:59 AM

Well then how about a “not driving” tax? If they can tax you for not buying health insurance, they can tax you for not driving.

Thanks a lot, Roberts.

rbj on June 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM

To be honest, we do this already with our tax code. All tax credits are in essence (if not in form) the same as taxes on those who do not engage in the activity that qualifies for the credit. If anything, today’s decision drives home the need to seriously reform the tax code.

sadarj on June 28, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Where does it stop?

BobMbx on June 28, 2012 at 11:59 AM

.
when they consolidate all of it and just call it a
“Big Brother Tax”

FlaMurph on June 28, 2012 at 12:09 PM

At this point I am not sure any of this really matters anymore. Given the democrats propensity to lie and break the law to achieve our goals and conservatives attempts to follow the rules to achieve the goals it seems we are doomed to failure anyway.

The democrats will get any VMT in the end just as they got the mandate. It is hard to achieve any success when the other side has no restrictions on what actions the will take to achieve theirs.

Skwor on June 28, 2012 at 11:26 AM | Delete

…we all need to start ignoring laws!

KOOLAID2 on June 28, 2012 at 12:23 PM

the current gas tax IS a mileage tax, just without the unconstitutional ability to track citizens

phreshone on June 28, 2012 at 11:55 AM

I agree. I live 2 miles from work. Spend less on gas so I pay less taxes. Someone who drives 30 miles to work pays more tax on their increased gas use. Add a mileage tax on top and this is a double dip tax. Progs are clever beasts aren’t they?

oceansidecon on June 28, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Just so long as you don’t tax those folks without ID’s driving to the polls to vote. That would be racist.

Robert Jensen on June 28, 2012 at 1:04 PM

Hybrid and electric cars weigh at least as much as a similarly sized car, which means they create the same amount of wear on the highway. They also take up the same amount of space, which means more traffic means more money for highways.

So tax them with a nice hefty green road usage fee every year for license plate renewal. Very simple, no new technology needed.

Robert Jensen on June 28, 2012 at 1:07 PM

If there is a mileage tax, I cannot afford to go to work anymore. I travel 100 miles a day. Here is how I feel right this minute (hopefully I will calm down soon). I am 61 years old and healthy but with Obamacare, getting sick is a death sentence. There is no way to turn this around because all four branches of Government are corrupt. So, let the USA become a Socialist country, I’ll be dead anyway. I don’t want to see my sons and their children living under a socialist, facist government with a dictator as a leader. Congress and the Supreme Court is powerless and useless.

lea on June 28, 2012 at 1:09 PM

So, did I miss anything yet this morning?

Yeah. The Supremes said it’s your Constitutional Right to lie about being a war hero.

Socratease on June 28, 2012 at 1:17 PM

What does it matter? Congress will just say that those of us who don’t buy Chevrolet Volts will get to pay the higher of 6% of our income or $2,000.

Steve Eggleston on June 28, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Taxation, despite Representation Republicans. That is what our Republic has become.

search4truth on June 28, 2012 at 11:25 AM

burserker on June 28, 2012 at 1:46 PM

Only in the United States of America could the government come up with the idea of spending 300 million dollars to “develop” a vehicle mileage tax.

Only one way to explain it. Some private individual or company or companies will reap the 300 million by way of their Congressman or Senator.

Otherwise it would be as simple as:
The United States Congress hereby authosizes the levying of what 3 cents per mile for every mile travelled by private individuals’ vehicles, said mileage to be determined each year when the vehicle comes up for new registration. The IRS shall collect same.

Now, that didn’t cost nearly as much as 300 million bucks, now dids it.

Throw them all out, and pass term limits!

Tenwheeler on June 28, 2012 at 1:48 PM

Yeah. The Supremes said it’s your Constitutional Right to lie about being a war hero.

Socratease on June 28, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Yeah, looks like they are on a real bender. Good thing we still have elections.

Bmore on June 28, 2012 at 2:07 PM

I have an idea about how they can get around the ‘declining’ highway revenues: why don’t they stop funding everything that has nothing to do with highways and that wasn’t the original intent of the gas tax, such as public transport railroad projects, ‘smart’ growth “alternatives”, and public transportation that can’t survive without a subsidy?

ptcamn on June 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM

And the silly-ass “highway beautification” projects like trees 7 shrubs 7 flowers that also require ongoing maintenance costs.

LooseCannon on June 28, 2012 at 3:00 PM

&, not 7

(damn shift key)

LooseCannon on June 28, 2012 at 3:01 PM

So, if we’re driving less, due to economic conditions, there’s less wear & tear on the roads, therefore less needs to be collected and spent on upkeep. That addresses the gas and diesel vehicles. Electric car owners can be charged a mileage tax/fee. (Thereby pushing their break-even point on vehicle cost further out. Oh well…)

LooseCannon on June 28, 2012 at 3:06 PM

Sadly, if elections meant anything we probably wouldn’t be able to hold them.

Missilengr on June 28, 2012 at 3:30 PM

So now we have a Democrat congress (since 2006 remember) overseeing the most miserable ecnonomy witnessed since 1929.
Pelosi (a pol escapee from Baltimore) represents ones worst fears in leadership at any level. A perfect example of someone who is both incompetent and arrogant. An insufferable combination.
And so congress passes legislation that is NOT A TAX and found to be (what?) A TAX by Mr. Roberts. The end result is that Congress may now go about their way and TAX ANYTHING they wish.
To steal a phrase from earlier: Thanks Chief Justice Roberts. What a way to soil your lofty reputation for eternity. Fool.

Missilengr on June 28, 2012 at 3:40 PM

Is there no end to the greed of these people? The old Beatles song was right about that taxman.

totherightofthem on June 28, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Taxes! Taxes everywhere!!

MikeknaJ on June 28, 2012 at 11:24 AM


ONLY FOR THE 51% OF US THAT ACTUALLY PAY TAXES..

ARIZONAVETERAN on June 28, 2012 at 4:49 PM

Just so long as you don’t tax those folks without ID’s driving to the polls to vote. That would be racist.

Robert Jensen on June 28, 2012 at 1:04 PM


DING DING DING, WE HAVE TODAY COMMENTS WINNER!!!

ARIZONAVETERAN on June 28, 2012 at 4:51 PM

hey, let’s add MORE profit motive to turning back odometers.

now instead of used car salesmen doing it…EVERYONE will be doing it!

does someone in congress have a cousin that makes the tools to do this?

warhorse_03826 on June 29, 2012 at 2:22 PM