cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has announced that it is considering a ‘mileage-based fee’ that would be assessed on self-reported mileage; at least for the moment it would be based on self-reported mileage. An alternative to self-reporting would be global positioning systems mounted on vehicles. I assume that the change to use of private business facilities for emission testing still requires mileage to be gathered on tested vehicles, so that might well provide the ability to check the truthfulness of those reporting mileage driven on a voluntary basis.
There is a reported shortfall of some $8.7 Billion in funds necessary to maintain existing transportation facilities and to complete projects that are already queued up, both in the state and in the communities which receive state funding to offset part of their costs.
Other sources of the needed funds could be increases in gasoline taxes, and in the registration fees. The Transportation Finance & Policy Commission, created by the legislature, reportedly had little interest in the use of GPS units which would enable actual reporting of mileage driven on a real-time basis. The Commission is not excited about toll roads being used in Wisconsin. I do not know how this self-reporting would be handled for out-of-state drivers since their records aren’t kept in Wisconsin. That might be bridged by reciprocal agreements between states, at least those bordering Wisconsin…or they may get a free ride as they do today except for gas taxes incurred while in the state.
According to reports this self-reporting would be eased into being with a minimum floor of mileage to preclude low mileage drivers from paying a fee, and the use of a cap to create a maximum fee to be paid per vehicle.
There is concern about finding the necessary funding as vehicles become more fuel efficient thus limiting the amount of taxes collected from fuel purchases. If electric vehicles become more widely used, that would also reduce the taxes currently being collected. That might lead to an electricity surcharge being enacted for vehicle recharging facilities.
This Commission meets again on October 18th and is scheduled to complete its work by December.
One thing that is obvious is this: our costs of maintaining existing roads, and of creating new roads and replacing aging roads, is going to change in one form or another. That applies to locales as well as the highways in our state.
Once such an approach is put into place, it is a very short leap to get to the point where some legislature at some time will make GPS units a requirement for the licensing of vehicles. Once that happens, the issue of personal privacy jumps out as a huge nut to be cracked. How many of us will want the authorities to know our every meandering? How will all this play in terms of personal privacy? Will that be judged to be constitutional?
We seem poised to step out onto a very slippery slope, and I wonder how many members of the state legislature will be willing to take that vote. Then, if something along these lines passes the Assembly and the Senate, will the new requirement be signed by the governor, whoever that is at the time?
This seems Orwellian at the very least, and I suspect we will have a major debate over these possibilities. We certainly ought to have a major debate.