The latest proposal by government to collect tax revenue may seem out of this world – that’s because it is.

The state of Oregon is considering the use of satellite technology to charge taxes based on how much mileage you drive your car.

The Road User Fee Task Force set up by lawmakers last year plans to ask the 2003 session to authorize testing of a vehicle-mileage tax, reports the Associated Press.

Oregon was the first state back in 1919 to adopt a gas tax, and today officials expect revenues to flatten as gas mileage improves and more hybrid cars come on line.

Jim Whitty, the task force administrator, says his group is looking at a per-mile charge of up to 1.25 cents to generate funds comparable to the current gas tax.

“We also have to have a way to track mileage only within the state,” Whitty told the AP. This rules out basing the fee on odometer readings, which would include out-of-state driving.

“Technology has improved to the degree that this can be done, with an electronic device,” he said.

The device in each car would be linked to a Global Positioning Satellite system, or GPS, which allows pinpoint navigation by bouncing signals off satellites.

The task force hopes to organize a test of this system if lawmakers approve, checking to see if the system even works, then conducting a yearlong evaluation.

There are several options for actually collecting fees. One is to send vehicle owners a monthly bill, another is to outfit gas stations so they can read vehicle transponders and collect the tax at fueling stops.

If you think the new method would do away with the tax on fuel, think again. In assessing the new levy, drivers would get credit for gas tax already paid.

To protect drivers’ privacy, using the system to track cars in real time would be illegal. New cars would be required to have the GPS technology. Owners of older cars would be allowed to take part by retrofitting them.

A final decision on the proposal is not expected to come until the 2005 legislative session at the earliest.

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