Change is in the wind in Oregon. Actually, it’s in the way the state plans to raise money to pay for road repairs: by the mile.
The state is enacting a plan called OreGo, where it charges drivers by how many miles they drive rather than collecting taxes on gasoline, which is the conventional method for getting the funding. The idea is helping to raise revenue because as cars are getting better gas mileage and some aren’t using any gas at all, tax revenues are dwindling.
The $8.4 million program could be the model for other states, like Michigan, struggling to find ways to maintain and upgrade sagging infrastructure as tax revenues continue to fall.
Starting July 1, 5,000 volunteers can sign up to drive using electronic devices that track how many miles they drive. They will pay 1.5 cents per mile to travel on public roads in the state instead of paying the gasoline-based tax.
Some of those non-gas and hybrid drivers mentioned earlier aren’t happy.
“This program targets hybrid and electric vehicles, so it’s discriminatory,” said Patrick Connor, a Beaverton resident who has been driving an electric car since 2007, according to Autoblog.com.
Oregon isn’t the only state looking to ensure it collects tax revenue from every driver on the road. California is studied alternatives to the gas tax and is creating a pilot program. Washington is developing a program a similar to Oregon’s and there is legislation being considered in Indiana to do the same. Oregon officials say it is only fair for owners of green vehicles to be charged for maintaining roads, just as owners of gasoline-powered vehicles do.
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“We know in the future, our ability to pay for maintenance and repair … will be severely impacted if we continue to rely on the gas tax,” said Shelley Snow, spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Transportation.
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The program is the second phase of testing. The state has already conducted some smaller trial runs to work out the bugs and challenges that OreGo may encounter. It’s not restricted to EVs and hybrids. Any car can sign up, but there are some limitations. No more than 1,500 participating vehicles can get less than 17 miles per gallon, and no more than 1,500 must get at least 17 miles per gallon and less than 22 miles per gallon.
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The volunteers who drive vehicles with gasoline-powered engines are still on the hook for taxes when they fill up, but they will receive a credit or a bill monthly depending upon their usage rates.