The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

New California DMV Chief Advocates Taxing All Drivers by the Mile

November 29, 2004

The appointment of a new state official is making waves in California, and the possible use of GPS devices in vehicles is at the center of the storm, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times on November 16. The controversy involves Joan Borucki. She has been named director of the Department of Motor Vehicles in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office announced recently. She most recently served at the California Performance Review. It was at the Review – an audit operation created by Schwarzenegger – that she issued a report that is making waves now that she has been nominated for a top state job. The Review proposed taxing drivers by the mile to pay for roads, rather than by a fuel tax. According to the Times story – which identified Borucki as the head of the Review’s transportation section – there are two possible methods of collecting such a tax. One would involve placing a GPS device in each vehicle to track how many miles it ran on California roads. The second would use a device that sends a signal from cars’ odometers to gas pumps when fueling, charging the road-use tax amount at the pump. Not surprisingly, privacy advocates are concerned. “How are limits placed on how this device could be used,” Annalee Newitz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco told the Times. The Review report specifically mentions Oregon, which according to the Times is currently testing the GPS method. “Oregon is studying alternative revenue sources for transportation in lieu of the cent-per-gallon fuel tax,” the authors of the report wrote. “They are focusing on a fee based upon vehicle miles traveled and are leading the nation in this effort. The report added that the state “should develop and implement a pilot project to test the feasibility of implementing a user fee based on actual individual use of the transportation system for funding future operations…vehicle miles traveled should be considered.”
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