Oregon Mileage Tax Proposal Fails To Solve the Root Problem

If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Ah, Oregon, crucible of socialism and training ground for Trotskyites. If it seems like every utopian progressive policy comes from my fair state, well, where there’s smoke there’s fire. The latest is a new revenue source – taxing the mileage you drive instead of the fuel you consume.

The latest scheme is the state’s attempt to backfill tax revenues that have cratered due to our horrible economic climate. Oh, state officials will tell you it’s because we’re such successful progressives that we need to invent new revenue streams. But really, we need more money in this state because the utopians have destroyed our economy and all the revenue streams with it.

Here’s what’s happening. Gas tax revenue is falling precipitously, causing a crisis in transportation budgets. The reason most often cited for this crisis is that cars are more efficient, and fewer people are driving than they used to, presumably opting for public transit. So we need a new revenue source to make up for the loss of revenue caused by all those good little environmentalists.

Civil libertarians are correct to … shall we say … look askance at this scheme. The invasions of privacy involved in potentially transitioning this from a voluntary to a mandatory system are enough to evoke the image of Big Brother in even the most ardent leftist (whether they consider that a frightening image, or a welcomed one).

Be that as it may, the underlying premise sounds plausible, until one considers that Oregon has consistently had an unemployment rate well above the national average, while the labor force participation rate has fallen off a cliff.  Could the lack of gas tax revenues have anything to do with the notion that fewer people are driving to work? Could it be that job creators have fled and taken jobs with them? Could it possibly be that the old saw is true, that we don’t need more taxes, we need more taxpayers?

Nah, that’s crazy talk.