- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 19, 2005

I read with dismay (and some amusement) The Washington Times article (March 9, Page One, “Oregon weighs tax on mileage”) describing how Oregon now wants to tax its drivers based on miles driven per year.

This asinine initiative is the brainchild of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding (now there’s a title right out of the “Twilight Zone”).

The program is meant to compensate for the loss of state fuel taxes due to reduced gasoline sales to drivers who had the unmitigated gall to buy more fuel-efficient, hybrid automobiles. I am sure many Oregonian hybrid owners are doing a double-take, asking themselves, “How did this happen?”

I lived in California for a while. I still own property in Redwood country, some of the prettiest land in North America. My ultimate goal was to retire to Northern California. I lived in Monterey, during the 1977 water shortage crisis. Earlier that year, I visited Yosemite Falls, which had dried to a mere trickle with a small stream emanating from the base of the falls. Rains had been few and far between. There was far less snow than normal and the sparse snowpack and little rain left the water tables severely depleted. Even what little rain that fell ran off the dense hard-packed soil into sewers and arroyos. The ubiquitous prairie dogs probably chipped teeth on the hard soil.

To alleviate this, California called on citizens to conserve water. Amazingly, Californians purposefully rose to the occasion. Cars were not washed except at car washes that recycled their wastewater. Lawns were not watered, browning up most of the state. Swimming pools were not filled.

At summer’s end, California’s citizens had proven their mettle by using the least water in decades. Their reward? The California Public Utilities Commission (or whatever its name) realized it had lost considerable revenue because residents used (and paid for) so much less water than normal. Accordingly, the water rates were jacked up, leaving Californians wondering, “How did this happen?”

Oregon is a haven for environmentalists. Except for the occasional tree-spiker, most are well-intentioned and serious about their state’s environment. They love their state and want to keep it as clean as possible. Therefore, many switched to smaller, more efficient hybrid cars. Their goals, of course, were saving fuel and reducing pollution. Knowing Oregonians as I do, they probably even crammed six or seven passengers into their little hybrids, just like the Ringling Brothers’ Clown Car, each trying to “out-enviro” the other.

Their reward? The state, concerned now only with a loss of fuel tax revenue, wants to tax Oregonians based on how many miles they travel. Forget for a moment the chilling aspect of their “big brother” GPS mileage trackers. As is typical with any left/socialist-leaning state, Oregon initially mouthed all the correct environment-friendly words and slogans until revenues were affected. Then, realizing the fuel-tax cash cow is running low on milk, our Alternative Funding folks turn up the suction on the milking machines until they draw out the very blood. Forget fuel conservation. Forget air pollution. Forget water conservation. Damn the torpedoes. Keep those milk machines running.

Having come to realize California will never adopt a sensible energy policy, a sane tax or a rational firearms policy, I while away my retirement in Virginia. I watch my “car tax” capped at 70 percent because Virginia legislators lack the intestinal fortitude to phase out the tax. To my north, the District of Columbia bleats about “traffic safety” while racking up record traffic violations revenue and paying a Texas contractor more than $600,000 monthly to process the tickets.

Oregon whines about the importance of fuel conservation and pollution control (as long as it doesn’t cost the state revenue). California in the 1970s preached water conservation, which went the way of the dodo when revenues weren’t sustained.

All these public-relations efforts are reminiscent of Chinese propaganda campaigns;: Work the masses into a frenzy over this or that “ism” so they won’t realize the worst “ism” that threatens them is their own government.

Through this haze of rhetorical hypocrisy and chicanery, taxpayers must remember, regardless of rhetoric or stated intent, the bottom line is always revenue, revenue and more revenue. If the government can’t lift it out of your wallet through income and sales taxes, it will draw the money out of your veins in other, innovative ways.

I hope the good citizens of Oregon will gather their collective common sense and euthanize their state leaders (I believe it is legal there). They must tell government to live within its income rather than punish those, who in the best way they know, try to improve the state.

I will invest my meager savings in solar-powered milking machines. It seems the environmentally responsible thing to do.

J.E. STOLL

Stafford, Va.

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