We road users have a sweet deal

The mileage tax doesn't apply when running the engine and heater to help clear the windshield.

If Oregon legislators propose an increase in the gas tax this year, as part of a package to keep up with the need for highway maintenance and construction, they won't get any complaints from me. An accounting from OReGO showed me that I'm getting a really good deal, in my opinion, for using our roads.

OReGo is the program charging about 1,000 volunteers, including me, a road user tax of 1.5 cent per mile. Like everybody else, we pay the state gas tax of 30 cents a gallon too. If the per-mile tax exceeds the tax we pay at the pump, we're supposed to get a bill for the difference now and then. If, on the other hand, we pay more in gas tax than what the user tax is, we get a refund. (To keep the thing manageable, the bill or refund comes into play only when the amount due is $20 or more.)

Last week OReGO sent me an accounting for the period from April 1, 2016, through the end of the year. For most of that time the vehicle on my account was an F-150 pickup. The program kept track of the distance I drove the truck, though not where I drove it because I didn't opt for the GPS-based option. (If I had driven outside of Oregon, the GPS option would have subtracted the out-of-state mileage. I drove only in Oregon, so having the option would have made no difference.)

According to OReGO, I drove the truck 5,177.8 miles. The vehicle burned 242.47 gallons of fuel -- regular gas, by the way -- and the gas tax amounted to just under $73. (The road user charge was about $78, so I owe them $5, but there have been some adjustments, and as a result the program actually owes me about $6.)

Some of those 5,000 miles were on I-5 between here and Southern Oregon, and some of the rest were on Highway 34 between here and the coast. Both the interstate and the state highway have been kept, in my experience, in better than average condition. I realize that keeping them that way is a matter of money. And getting to use our entire road system over 5,000 miles for about 70 bucks seems to me a pretty good deal. Too good a deal, actually, so if they want to raise the price a little, who am I to object?

The Oregonian reports that a special committee of legislators working on a transportation package for the 2017 session hasn't come up with anything yet. But they're considering all kinds of ways to raise road revenue including, the Portland paper said, a fee on bicycles. That wouldn't bother me, either, considering how much I use the road network riding my bike. If nothing else, a bike registration or sales fee would at least shut up all those who maintain -- mistakenly, I might add -- that cyclists are getting a free ride. (hh)




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