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Oregon set to implement pay-per-mile tax

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THE DALLES, OR - JUNE 15: Traffic moves along E. 2nd Ave. June 15, 2006 downtown in The Dalles, Oregon. Google is building two new computing centers in the town of 12,000, 80 miles from Portland. (Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images)

SALEM — Oregon is set to become the first state in the nation to implement a pay-per-mile tax.

The measure is currently voluntary, starts in July and will be open to only 5,000 drivers.

Participating drivers will have their mileage recorded and be charged 1.5 cents per mile. They’ll get credit to offset the fuel tax at the pump.

It’s an interesting experiment by the state as an attempt to offset the dropping revenue from the fuel tax. This is a problem across the United States as more drivers opt for fuel-efficient vehicles. That’s good for the environment, Oregon policymakers say, but bad for roads and bridges.

Money collected from the fuel tax goes toward repairing and maintaining that infrastructure in Oregon, and the state frames this program as “a new way to fund roads and bridges for all Oregonians.”

But the reality is that for some Oregonians, especially those who drive fully electric vehicles, opting into OReGO, as the program is called, would mean forking out lots more money.

The question for policymakers: How do you convince Oregonians to opt for a new tax?

Michelle Godfrey, of the state’s Department of Transportation, is not naive about that challenge. “No one wants a new tax, and this is what it is,” she said. “It’s an alternative to an existing tax, but most people are not aware of what they are paying in gas taxes, so they have to be educated.”

The state put out a comparison for drivers and a calculator on its website to see how it would work in practice.

Here’s where the math comes in.

The state calculates that the average Oregonian drives 12,962 miles a year.

Oregon compared what drivers of two cars — A 2014 Toyota Prius and a 2014 Ford F-150 — would pay driving that distance. Under the fuel tax model, the F-150 pays more into the state coffers by way of the fuel tax: $216.03, to the Prius’ $77.77.

But if both opted into OReGO, they’d both pay the same amount into the state’s highway fund — $116.66 — but under this plan, the F-150 saves money. Not a lot, but after the state offsets the fuel tax with a usage fee, the F-150 driver would save a little over $20 a year. The Prius driver, by comparison, would fork out almost $200 more a year.

“It might be a bit of a shock at first to see the actual amount they are paying, but I believe it is empowering to drivers,” said Godfrey. “It will help them to determine how they drive and if certain trips are necessary.”

The state has a whole section on its website devoted to answering the question: Just why would someone decide to voluntarily give the state more money? The answer: We all need good infrastructure, bad roads do damage to all cars — especially lighter ones — and drivers of electric vehicles and fuel-efficient cars who were polled said they wanted to pay more for better roads.

So far, 1,600 have signed up, Godfrey says, adding that the real number could be higher because account managers have partnered with her agency to help get people on board.

Oregon’s program isn’t permanent, but state officials are betting that other states will be watching. They say 18 other states are looking into similar options.

Thus far, bikes and motorcycles will not be eligible, and drivers who have GPS systems won’t get dinged from driving out of state.

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  • Frank D.

    This is a good thing for city dwellers who have access to Mass transit not so for people who have no way to get around except by car. I can see ths coming to Washington.

  • tootietuttle

    this is how inept liberal democrats pay for their own years of mismanagement by implementing more taxes to pad their pay increases and that of their well paid off workers.

    • ShadowWalker59

      Well then, WHO, put these spendthrifts into office? SOMEBODY voted them in, so those that voted for them, are now reaping the ‘benefits’ from it.

  • sarah

    Remember when cell phones charged per minute, and you had to make calls after 9pm? Now you watch your Data usage. No one talks on the phone anymore, they create new ways to get the same amount from you. Kinda the same thing.. And when you cut down on your driving they will create a bike lane toll.

  • Dan Rafael

    When this is fully implemented in Washington, count on it, it’s coming, it will penalize those in rural areas with higher taxes. Yet most of the road money goes into large urban projects.

    • ShadowWalker59

      You know, I can believe it! Washington ALWAYS want’s to tax you for something. They think that WE’RE made of money, and we are their source for everything that ails them. They don’t care what WE think, but hey, they’re doing it for us…………right?? And if they think that we’re driving less now, just wait til they force another tax on us and we have to drive less then we do now………..what a vicious circle, then What tax are they going to raise to offset us driving less?

  • John H

    Who in their right mind would sign up for this? Especially in a state with income tax, property tax, you name it they tax you already. An example as a single male working all year paying my taxes claiming myself. I file my end of year taxes claiming the same and instead of getting a state tax return along with my federal. I get a notice from the state claiming that I still owe $341 and some change. Granted not much, but who’s fault is it that you cannot manage the peoples revenue? Keep letting them in and we will end up no better than we were before the revolution.

  • dg54321

    Thanks for making it absolutely clear, Oregon, that my earlier thoughts about moving there were foolish and that I am lucky I waited to make that decision. I would never move to that state now, and Arizona is looking better and better all the time.

  • Roman

    I look forward to the GPS trackers getting hacked, which is simple enough . If it plugs into OBD port. You can reply to the CAN requests & give it fake mileage.. “Yep. I only drove 1134 miles”

  • MA Johnson

    I’m a traveling health professional who works as an independent contractor. I don’t get mileage compensation except for federal taxes. I go to Lakeview from Klamath Falls two days per week so that 15 to 17 patients per day do not have to travel to Klamath Falls for health care appointments. I stay the night and make the round trip once a wek. So I’m to understand that I’ll be personally taxed even though I’m keeping 30 extra vehicles from making the same round trip on a weekly basis??? NOT FAIR!!!! I save the roads 5,560 miles worth of wear (96X2)X30 On paper, I’m not so green, but I am more green in terms of prevention. Travelling professionals, and in fact anyone travelling for business purposes, should be exempt from the tax because without us, the road would be filled with at least ten times more cars for each of us.

  • RashadFRamirez

    my co-worker’s half-sister makes $60 every hour on the computer .>>> She has been unemployed for six months but last month her income was $12654 just working on the computer for a few hours. see this page>>>>>> Read More

  • ShadowWalker59

    You get right down to it, they don’t want you to drive anywhere except when you have to. To me, it’s taking one of the few remaining freedoms away from you, simply because they want to make you drive less, and stay at home to play bingo. There is little wonder I wouldn’t want to move to oregon, they can have it and they can keep it!!! Just another little link in taking something away from you. Tax you, hurt you in your pocketbook, then they’ve got you!

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