Saturday, January 03, 2009

Mileage Tax A Bad Idea

Mileage Tax A Bad Idea

For the second time in one week, I've met a tax I don't like. But, as a good redistributionist, social-engineering Democrat, it's only because I like another tax better.

With new, fuel efficient vehicles on the market, lawmakers are worried that gas tax revenues will drop. They act like that's a bad thing, just like raising the cigarette tax will reduce revenue by reducing smoking. Some states have now hit on the idea of taxing not fuel, but miles.

Besides the Big Brother implications of a GPS in every car, the mileage tax does nothing to change car-buying behavior. It may change driving behavior, true. But it doesn't change the bigger need, energy use behavior. A trip in an RV hauling an SUV behind it is taxed the same as a trip in a Prius:
"It doesn't seem fair," said Paul Niedergang of Portland, that a hybrid would be taxed as much as his Dodge pickup.

I've been consistent for years on this blog: I think gas should be more expensive like it is in Europe. Sure, I'm a self-righteous elitist, biking and walking the five blocks to work. But nothing works better than price to change behavior.

We first started to see it in the post-Katrina price spike to $3 a gallon in September `05, and REALLY saw it last summer at $4. People changed their driving behavior, and we started hearing about public transit and carpooling and trip combining. And all that talk has vanished now that fuel prices have artificially dropped down to $1.50.

So forget the mileage tax, but sock it to those Hummer drivers with the gas tax. Set it up on a floating scale to keep the punp prices at $3 a gallon or more to flatten out the fluctuations of the market.

1 comment:

Griff said...

It seems to me that a little momentum is building up in favor of increasing the gas tax -- Tom Friedman, for instance -- but it is important that any increase be offset by tax decreases elsewhere, so as to not to make the current recession even worse. That would also make an increase easier to sell politically, but even so I doubt it can be done.