A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

We road users have a sweet deal

Written January 8th, 2017 by Hasso Hering

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)




6 responses to “We road users have a sweet deal”

  1. Leroy says:

    So a few of us have decided we havent paid enough tax at the pump and have volenteered to become a auditor by living with a GPS in their car, to determine their rate of speed, their acceleration, and decelleration habits coupled with the added fuel tax at the pump. I think Oregonians pay a very high rate of tax, the fuel tax has been sufficient to keep Oregon roads in top shape. why volenteer to encourage more taxation?

  2. George Pugh says:

    For starters, Mr. Hering, thank you for participating in the grand experiment. I kept thinking I would sign up one our vehicles but, as I have said too often, “If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I must be the road-master.”
    That being said, your F150 seemed to be a good match for our current state fuel tax with an equivalent $0.015 per gallon. Do you know what the state averages are showing?
    Just curious.

    I would support an increase in use taxes/fees for maitainence, and upgrades when needed, of existing streets and roads. I would prefer that the enacting legislation included getting rid of the Little-Davis-Bacon act in Oregon and making us a right-to-work state, while I dreaming.

  3. Leroy says:

    Recall our kicker? When the liberals manufacture means to overspend thereby eliminate our kicker I dont believe for a minute that a volunteered tax will end in a refund. We are dealing with Liberal politicians.

    • Thomas Aaron says:

      Haha! Liberals? How about just any good old boy politician? That two party mentality has you working against your own best interests. They’re all the same crooks. Point your bias towards all those that have earned it.

      That said, tax the the hell out of those that avoid paying their fare share in the first place and not us poor saps who don’t have our own personal driver.

    • Tony White says:

      Exactly on the mark, Leroy. So often good proposals are implemented, only to have them corrupted at a later date by political greed. Be suspicious. Be very suspicious.

  4. John Hartman says:

    I admire Hering’s willingness to support our national infrastructure through non-traditional means. Given that most vehicles are using less and less gas and will quickly enough be replaced by electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles, it only makes sense to explore options to pay for the roadways people depend on.

    I am weary of those who believe they deserve to have good roads simply by their mere existence…as though their presence on the planet’s surface is justification enough for others to provide for them. Gas taxes are anathema.

    These are the very same privileged folks who complain when ODOT doesn’t maintain the roads sufficiently. These are the very same people who believe that Mexico will pay for the Wall. Delusion runs amuck.


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