Better gas mileage is a good thing, right? Not for tax collectors:
The federal tax man has an eye on those increasingly popular high- mileage vehicles, gas misers whose drivers love going further between fill-ups and saving on sky-high gas prices. The idea is simple but technologically daunting — base gas taxes on miles driven instead of on gallons of fuel bought. And advocates say the reason for such a change is also simple — although such fuel-efficient vehicles as hot-selling hybrids pay less in gas taxes, they’re still out on the nation’s roads contributing to congestion and wear and tear on an aging infrastructure. A switch in the way the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal gas tax is levied could be in the offing, making it more of a user fee than a tax. By unanimous voice vote, the Senate Finance Committee approved legislation Tuesday to establish a 15-member commission to report back within two years on ways to ensure enough tax revenue to pay for the nation’s highway, bridge and public transit programs. High on the list the panel will consider is the per-mile fee that is already the subject of a $1.25 million pilot project in Oregon that will use a special “smart” odometer coupled with a global positioning system in every vehicle, a system invented at Oregon State University.