Due to anticipated reductions in fuel tax revenues, the state of Oregon has been contemplating changing its tax system for 12 years. They piloted alternative programs in 2007 and 2013. Finally, this year, they’re implementing a new experimental program. It’s referred to as a road usage tax program. They’ll be the first state in the nation to put such a program to the test. There was an initial meeting held by the ODOT to get community input and act as an open forum. Though it had an extremely low attendance, the program has continued to have much criticism, both within the state and nationwide.
The Oregon Department of Transportation is recruiting 5000 volunteer drivers to sign up for the program. You can log onto their website, www.oregon.gov/odot/pages/index.aspx to find out the details of joining the program. The program begins on July 1st of this year.
The volunteer drivers will track their mileage, and be charged $0.015 per mile traveled. The ODOT’s proposed program offers a few options for tracking your mileage. The first, most controversial and criticized way is to use GPS monitoring. Many find this to be a blatant governmental invasion of privacy. The second, less obtrusive way is an odometer reading instrument. The third, and most likely to be used way is a mileage journal. This is the type of data collection that many states have already honored for mileage recording for tax purposes. You can even purchase such journals in many office supply stores. The state firmly implies stiff penalties for misrepresentation or false mileage reporting.
The most confusing part of the program has got to be the way the tax collection is proposed. The driver, having reported mileage, receives a bill from the ODOT. The driver then pays the bill. After the tax funds are received, the driver receives a refund check to offset the amount paid in fuel tax, collected at $.30 per gallon. This process seems complicated and confusing. It also seems to leave plenty of room for overages and underage galore. Refreshingly, the state has commissioned a private firm to handle processing of the revenues and rebates.
The program is being called the “OreGo” volunteer program. The program funds are for roads and bridges as fuel tax revenues are. To gain an idea of the scope of the need for such a program, the state’s budget for roads and bridge construction since 2013 is 50 billion dollars. The current fuel tax for last year only brought in 34 billion. This can be credited to more fuel-efficient cars and a statewide rise in the use of public transportation. It’s not surprising, with such deficits that the state would be the first to implement this new approach. It is, however, ironic since Oregon was the first state in our nation to implement the gas tax in 1919.
Though being met with resistance and criticism, it must be recognized that Oregon is leading the way in providing for future road works with its citizens’ obvious commitment to environmentally sound transportation practices.