Taxed by the mile

Just when Minnesota raised its gas tax for the first time in more than 20 years, the gas tax may be heading for the ash dump of history.

That’s probably overstating the future a bit but momentum is increasing to charge people based on the number of miles they drive. The University of Iowa has been given a federal grant to determine whether billing people for the miles they drive makes more sense.

The problem with the gas tax is cars are getting better mileage and people are driving less because of high prices.

There’s money to be made here. The project is looking for people to participants in the 10-month study. Small computers will be attached to their cars and they’ll be sent mock invoices. They’ll also make up to $895, the Chicago Sun Times reports today. Unfortunately, Twin Cities or Minnesota drivers aren’t part of the study.

The study is also another example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. The federal government has given the university the money to study the idea. President Obama has already said he won’t pursue it.

But the idea could become the new census. The primary opposition to it comes from privacy interests. “There is a real concern on the part of many in the public that this is the ultimate of Big Brother watching and knowing where you are,” says Kansas Transportation Secretary Deb Miller.