The state of Washington has a wonderful opportunity to create a program that will simply work, be created logically and affects everyone the same but only if the state doesn’t make an asinine attempt to include social engineering.

The minute the social engineering is introduced, this opportunity will be another government program that is being used to control the citizens rather than serve the citizens.

I am writing about the recommendation made by the Washington State Transportation Commission to advise the state to move away from gas taxes and move toward a road usage charge. Although some of my more conservative friends were bemoaning such a move, I think, if done correctly it will be more equitable that the current gas tax.

Currently those with gas powered vehicles pay a tax on each dollar of fuel purchased. Any vehicle that doesn’t use fuel obviously doesn’t pay the fuel tax. Those with hybrids vehicles use less fuel which means fewer tax dollars being collected.

The state has noticed the tax dollars from the gas taxes received for road maintenance and construction are diminishing. The state did some testing of a road usage charge system. They had volunteers around the state. They had rural volunteers, city volunteers and everyone in the middle.

They used low-tech reporting and high-tech reporting. Some people self-reported their mileage. Some people used smartphone apps to report their mileage. Some used vehicle based tracking. Let me say now I do not want vehicle based tracking for several reasons.

After running the testing, the recommendation is to move toward this from a gas tax. I agree. But I agree only if certain things happen. First, this must replace the state gas tax, not supplement it. Secondly, it must not track actual vehicle movement just miles driven.

Third, and most importantly, it cannot be used to charge people based on when they drive, where they drive or what they drive. That is the social engineering I am completely against.

The recommendation released by the transportation commission states that using the road usage charge (RUC) would transition the state away from gas tax. The transportation commission recommendation wants to have personal privacy protected. Any system that identifies me and somehow tracks my movement has the potential for abuse. Having an option to report mileage at fueling locations and paying for the fuel and the RUC at the same time would provide privacy.

The social engineer function has so many potentials. One potential is to use the RUC and keep the fuel tax. That would make the environmentalists happy.

Those with electric vehicles would pay fewer dollars per mile because they are only paying the RUC. Those with gas cars would pay both the RUC and gas tax. This would be an incentive to get people out of the gas cars. Again, this is social engineering that must be avoided at all costs.

There have been discussions to track what road I drive on and at what time I am on the road. The RUC would change based on those factors. For example, if the tracking system shows me on Interstate 5 at five in the evening, the RUC I am charged would be increased because I am driving during a high demand time. Charging me more is an attempt to provide an incentive to force changes in my driving habits. Again, this is social engineering.

The state can make this program simple. How much money is needed for maintenance and planned projects? How many miles will vehicles travel on all the roads in Washington? Amortize the future projects to calculate how many dollars are needed during this calendar year. Finally do some simple division and the result is a per-mile RUC, completed without the use of social engineering. It’s a simple system for the users to pay for the roads.

Scotty Anderson is a computer programmer who enjoys serving the community through various community-oriented service jobs.

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