Originally published June 18 2015
Oregon to test new system to track and illegally tax travel on tax-funded roadways
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Officials in the state of Oregon are considering making it the first in the nation to charge automobile owners for the miles they drive rather than collecting taxes at the fuel pump, a concept that ought to be dismissed out of hand as unconstitutionally restrictive of Americans' right to travel freely.
Officials say the program is aimed at helping replenish state coffers used to pay for road and bridge projects and repairs, as money from gasoline taxes reportedly declines both in the state and around the country.
Interestingly, liberal politicians and environmental activists in states like Oregon have long complained about gasoline use in automobiles and have demanded that they be more efficient. Now that they are, they have created yet another problem for themselves and the nation as a whole: too little funding for highway infrastructure, hence the new funding scheme.
What's even worse about Oregon's plan is that it will require minute-by-minute tracking of automobiles – another surveillance state apparatus that appears to be at odds with one of the state's U.S. senators, Ron Wyden, a Democrat who has long opposed the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs.
Thick ironies linked to pay-and-be-tracked-as-you-go scheme
As reported by The Associated Press, the Oregon test program will begin July 1 with 5,000 volunteers who have signed up to participate. Their cars will be fitted with tracking devices that collect data on how much they have driven and where they go. They also agree to pay 1.5 cents per mile traveled on public roads within the state instead of the tax they now pay when filling up with fuel.
Already, however, there are complaints of bias in the program; owners of hybrid cars say the new tax is somehow more "unfair" to them and will discourage people from buying greener vehicles.
"This program targets hybrid and electric vehicles, so it's discriminatory," Patrick Connor, a Beaverton resident who has been driving an electric car since 2007, told the AP.
The latter may be true – why buy a green vehicle if you're going to be taxed anyway? – but then again, aren't all vehicles in Oregon using the same roads and bridges that conventional vehicle owners alone are supporting with their fuel taxes?
"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," Shelley Snow with the Oregon Department of Transportation told the AP.
The irony is thick; Oregon is one of the most progressive and environmentally conscious states in the country, filled with liberals who insist that everyone else but them pay their "fair share" of taxes.
Pay-as-you-drive tax viewed as potentially restrictive
To that end, however, they may have a point regarding the state's pay-per-mile scheme.
For one thing, even before the Constitution was written, the Articles of Confederation (Article IV) recognized that citizens should have freedom of movement, but it was considered to be so fundamental during the Constitution's drafting that it did not need to be named specifically. Still, the Constitution's "privileges and immunities" clause, Article II, Sect. 2, Clause 1, states: "The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states." As early as 1823, in Corfield v. Coryell, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized freedom of movement was a fundamental right.
But will that be the case now in Oregon? Will non-residents be forced to pay per mile to transit the state, should the program be adopted officially? What if the pay-per-mile tax winds up being much higher than a visitor would have normally paid in fuel taxes? Would that count as restricting travel, if the visitor then opts to bypass Oregon altogether, making his/her trip longer?
Collecting taxes during the sale of goods is one thing, and the state government certainly has an interest in maintaining and building roads and bridges, or to tax someone using the roads to conduct commerce or business (like a trucking company). But it seems like a pay-per-mile tax may wind up restricting travel, which would violate a basic constitutional principle.
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