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Oregon To Vote On Trucks' Fair Share

October 11, 1999

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A new diesel and gas tax that was supposed to replace Oregon's weight-distance tax as of Oct. 23 has been put on hold until voters can have their say next May, but a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot is closely tied to the controversial new law.

Measure 76 would make sure that cars and trucks would each pay their fair share of gas taxes and vehicle fees for highway maintenance and repair costs.
The gas tax increase package passed last summer would do away with the weight-distance tax on trucks and have truckers instead pay a diesel fuel tax. But the Oregon chapter of the American Automobile Assn. says the measure would give truckers a tax break, and launched a drive to gather enough signatures to keep the new law from taking effect until voters could make their wishes known.
The AAA argues that a tax based on weight and miles traveled is the fairest way to assess truckers for highway wear and tear. Hoping to blunt the AAA opposition, lawmakers drew up Measure 76 and placed it on next month's ballot.
The measure requires truckers to pay their share for maintenance in any case and places that policy in the Oregon Constitution so it couldn't be changed without voter approval. Lawmakers must review the subject every two years with the idea that they could adjust taxes and fees if needed.

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Backers of Measure 76 said it would give new protection because if the Legislature didn't maintain a fair highway tax and fee system, lawsuits could be brought asking the courts to enforce the constitutional requirement.
But AAA points out that the measure doesn't define "proportional," so it could drag out in the courts for years. Critics also say the measure doesn't even require lawmakers to conduct a thorough study of the issue.

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