SALEM - With the Oregon economy in shambles and drivers leaving their cars at home in record numbers, the state is trying to shore up a shrinking fund for new roads.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s solution? Tax breathing.
That’s right. While thousands of Oregonians are leaving their cars home and, instead, riding public transportation, joining ride-share programs, or just plain working from home, this personally responsible effort to free up more cash for the dinner table has produced two unintended consequences: The state’s transportation fund, which is based on a gas tax, could be facing a future shortfall (Oh, Dear!), and the air of Oregon hasn’t been this clean since the Indians tried to stop the settlers from stealing their tribal lands.
“As Oregonians drive less and breathe more, it is increasingly important that the state find a new way, other than the gas tax, to finance our transportation system,” Kulongoski said today from the state capitol in Salem. “The value of air can never be underestimated. It’s our state’s top export, well, other than homegrown, hemp products, and hops. It’s a natural resource, a commodity. Like any natural resource necessary for survival, it should be taxed.”
Kulongoski wants work to continue on a special task force testing the concept. One idea the governor proposes is issuing to all Oregonians special respirators similar in style to gas masks worn in Nazi Germany by the Hitler Youth. Each mask will be equipped with an oxygen sensor that measures how much a person breathes.
Opponents are all in a huff, warning the respirators would contain technology that works with satellites to transmit the breathing data to government computers, in effect creating a database that tracks not only an individual’s air intake but also their movements.
Jerry Lundegaard, editor of the Albany Democrat Herald, wrote in his blog today:
“My primary gripe with the breathing tax is that it’s a poorly thought-out concept that seems to punish people for not only trying to breathe so they can stay alive but also trying to save money and reduce their dependence on foreign oil. It's just plain stupid. What if I were a 400-pound, 5-foot-3 guy who could barely breathe? Why should I be on the hook for as much as someone who can run a marathon and has twice my lung capacity?”
Not-surprisingly (for the Northwest), a growing number of people are breathing calmly about the idea.
“We love our state, we love good roads, we love civilization, and we love our governor,” said Billy Dupree, president of the Walking Oregonian Dead, a liberal tank of empty skulls that boasts 100-percent membership from the state’s nearly 900,000 registered Democrats (who make up about 42% of voters; Republicans are about 33%, while the rest belong to communes affiliated with thousands of liberal splinter groups, such as, well, the base of the Democratic Party). “If the governor wants to tax us to death so that we can preserve the beautiful roads we have here, we’ll take our masks now, please.”