New ‘tax by the mile’ plan way off the mark

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People say that those of us who live in southern California are some of the luckiest people in the world. The sun shines over 300 days of the year. We have Hollywood, miles and miles of beaches and Disneyland.

But what most people who don’t live in the L.A. area fail to realize is the high cost of living. Houses, food, rent; everything here is overpriced, including gasoline. Just last week, I paid $2.19 a gallon for medium grade, and it’s not even summer yet. On top of that, I’m lucky to have a car that gets pretty good gas mileage.

Large numbers of Los Angeles residents need to drive to get to school or work. Sitting in traffic, a trademark of this city, is one of the fastest ways to burn gas. But Los Angelinos are beginning to get smart.

Hybrid and fuel-efficient car sales are on the rise. Honda and Toyota, two of the biggest automobile manufactures, have released hybrid cars. More automobile manufactures are quickly making hybrid cars, even hybrid SUVs. People want to save money on gas, especially in southern California.

But if a large percentage of Californians are buying less gas, naturally the state receives less tax money from the sale of that gas.

In today’s market, tax is about 55 cents of the total price per gallon. 18 cents goes to the state, and 37 cents is federal taxes. This money is used for road repair and other infrastructure needs.

With the amount of hybrid and fuel-efficient cars on the road, however, the government is complaining that it is not receiving the necessary amount of money needed to do these repairs. One option being put on the table is a new program called “tax by the mile,” which is by far one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard.

“Tax by the mile” taxes you on the amount of miles you drive. The proposed plan goes as such: a global position system device will be put on your car that will keep track of how much you’ve driven. Then when you get gas, it will tell the pump how much you owe for taxes on your gas. This crazy system will also know what time you drive so that it can charge you different rates. For example, if you drive at rush hour, you will be charged a higher rate then you would be charged for driving at midnight. Oregon has started taxing drivers this way and California is said to be considering it.

To start, the plan is anti-business, since business depends on trucks that drive products cross-country. If they had to pay gas taxes by the mile, their expenses would quickly become excessive. And the consumer would end up paying because the consumer always pays.

If this new tax passes, there will be no more incentive to buy hybrids or fuel-efficient cars. Most people who bought these cars did so to avoid paying the high cost of fuel-inefficiency. But these people would, in essence, start to be punished for having done this. With the taxes we have now, SUV drivers pay the majority of the gas tax because they use the most gas. This is the way it should be, because these people use the majority of gas, not the people who buy gas with fuel-efficient cars, as that wouldn’t make sense.

In Los Angeles, rush hour is a big deal for drivers, and the proposed plan of charging higher tax rates at peak drive times is ridiculous. It’s called “rush hour” for a reason — people are rushing to get home. I am sure most drivers don’t want to be on the 405 at that time of day, but have to be because of their jobs, so why punish them?

And lastly, this plan is an invasion of privacy. The GPS system that would have to be put on cars would allow government access to where you are, where you’re going, and why you’re going there. It is not the government’s right to know that information so easily, and this trend of giving up freedom for security needs to stop.

I agree that gas taxes need to be adjusted in order to fix roads, but let’s keep the same system. It is not the citizens’ fault that oil companies have been allowed to inflate gas prices so high that we feel compelled to buy fuel-efficient cars, which are both easier on our pocketbooks and our environment. Perhaps if the government didn’t devote so many resources to foreign military matters, we’d have some leftover money here at home to take care of our problems.

Justin Satzman is a sophomore broadcast journalism major.