Oregon to Charge Drivers by the Mile -- Not the Gallon

The legislation, which awaits the governor's signature, would mark a radical departure from the traditional gas tax to fund transportation infrastructure.
by | July 15, 2013

Oregon is poised to become the first state to charge drivers based on how many miles they drive -- as opposed to how many gallons of gas they purchase -- in a move that could foreshadow the future of how transportation infrastructure gets funded.

The bill, passed by the legislature and awaiting Gov. John Kitzhaber's signature, would allow up to 5,000 drivers to voluntarily enlist in a new program in which they'd pay a tax of 1.5 cents for every mile they drive in lieu of the 30 cents-per-gallon tax that drivers pay in the Beaver State.

The newly created program is the result of years of study by state lawmakers and officials at the Oregon Department of Transportation, who have viewed the gas tax as increasingly unsustainable for funding the state's transportation and transit needs.

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Indeed, the per-gallon gas tax -- the primary tool used by the state and federal government to fund transportation infrastructure -- is the victim of competing policy goals. Governments encourage the use and development of fuel-efficient vehicles for environmental reasons. Yet at the same time, the success of those efforts means that drivers are paying less for each mile they drive, even as their vehicles cause the same amount of congestion and wear-and-tear on roads.


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