Legitimate taxing activity or Big Brother-style invasion of privacy? The concept of drivers paying a per-mile tax calculated via GPS tracking is drawing the ire of critics who see it as a double-whammy against personal freedom.

History of the per-mile tax

The roots of the idea date back to 2001, when lawmakers in Oregon realized that implementation of fuel-efficient cars would put a serious dent in gas tax revenue. Today at least 18 states are looking at bills to institute a per-mile tax, while Oregon actually has a pilot program underway.

Oregon has enlisted 5,000 volunteers to pay 1.5 cents-per-mile in place of the 30 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax. Nevada, Washington, Minnesota and California are in the process of running smaller pilot programs. The U.S. Senate attempted to start a $90 million national pilot program, but the House failed to approve it based on complaints from rural lawmakers concerned that their constituents would be unfairly burdened based on farther driving distances.

Is this an infringement of personal freedom?

Many of the programs under consideration involve the installation of a GPS tracking device. In addition to mileage traveled, the government would be able to track where you go; how you get there and how fast you drive.

Critics such as radio talk-show host and Fox News political contributor Tammy Bruce have strenuously objected to the per-mile tax. They are concerned about the loss of disposable income and the freedom that goes with it along with the loss of privacy due to the GPS tracking. Many others are wary of possible security breaches that would expose data to unauthorized parties.

The government’s claim of rapidly-diminishing highway repair funds is also drawing a raised eyebrow. Ms. Bruce refers to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in which billions of dollars were allocated to road and bridge repair along with other projects.

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