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    MSNBC: Pay per mile: A timely tax idea, or a privacy threat?

    MSNBC takes a look at a draft proposal to study a mileage tax in the United States that could have privacy implications:

    Department of Transportation officials have drafted legislation that would study a vehicle tax to track how far drivers travel and charge them by the mile. The proposal would create a “Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office” to conduct trials of the concept.

    The draft proposal was first reported this week in Transportation Weekly, a trade publication. A White House spokeswoman told The Hill newspaper that the draft “does not represent the views of the president” and is in no way an administration proposal.

    The White House put the brakes on a similar proposal floated early in Obama’s presidency, with then-spokesman Robert Gibbs said that a mileage tax “is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration.” […]

    The idea does have the support of some experts, who say it’s a fairer way of charging drivers for the bridges and roads they use every day.

    A tax or fee on miles driven could possibly supplant the gasoline tax, which has has lost a third of its purchasing power since it was last raised by Congress in 1993. Since 2008, according to a Congressional Budget Office report, the money available in the highway trust fund has not been enough to cover federal spending on highways, requiring an additional injection of about $30 billion from the federal treasury. […]

    As experts have recognized, many Americans would be wary of the idea of a government agency tracking their vehicle in order to tax the miles they drive.

    “The problem comes the minute you introduce a device in the vehicle” because people “do not want the government to know where they are and where they are going,” [energy consultant Geoffrey Styles] said.

    He said a less problematic approach would be for the mileage driven to be noted when state agencies do their annual vehicle inspections. That data could be forwarded to the federal government which could then impose its tax assessment on each driver.

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