Sacramento hits the gas on driving taxes

Within a few years, California may choose to tax drivers by the mile. Taking up a controversial idea floated by the federal government and embraced by Oregon, Sacramento legislators recently passed a bill that could lead to a new “road usage charge.”440px-Electric_car_charging_Amsterdam

Senate Bill 1077 wouldn’t impose a driving tax right away. Instead, the legislation, introduced by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, would create a special group tasked to evaluate the tax. Through the California Transportation Commission, SB1077 would establish a Road Usage Charge Technical Advisory Committee. The committee would draft a driving-tax pilot program for the state Transportation Agency.

Taking the committee draft into account, the agency then would implement a final pilot program by Jan. 1, 2017. Finally, by June 30, 2018, the agency would formally report on the results of the program to the assorted committees involved.

The driving tax next door

With that four-year timetable, California legislators have opted to proceed at a measured pace. But in the Golden State and elsewhere, political interest in taxing drivers per mile has accelerated quickly. In Oregon, for instance, a pilot program has already been launched. Last year, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., floated a miles-driven tax; now, the scheme has begun to draw signups from citizen volunteers.

Oregon legislators decided to aim for 5,000 participants in the pilot program, the better to determine which method of mileage calculation to adopt. Initially, civil liberties groups bridled at potential calculation methods that relied on GPS readings, which could be accessed by law enforcement without a warrant. But Oregon moved away from those options, and the ACLU and others got on board with the program.

An infrastructure problem

Oregonians, especially along the Pacific Coast, have earned a reputation for small-footprint environmentalism. Their turn toward a driving tax, however, has been motivated by other factors. Like other states around the country, Oregon was recently forced to grapple with an unforeseen problem.

Despite a stopgap infusion of $11 billion, the federal government announced it will soon run out of money for its Highway Trust Fund. The federal gas tax has lost 40 percent of its value thanks to inflation; meanwhile, many state gas taxes have wound up in a situation nearly as bad, according to USA Today.

The weakening of gas tax revenues has teed up an unusual problem. Americans have long expected the quality of their highways to be maintained — free of tolls in most places — but they haven’t wanted to pay more. Although inflation has hurt the gas tax, the cost of gas has gone up, and basic foodstuffs have become more expensive over the same time period.

The problem could be solved by simply indexing state and federal gas taxes to inflation. But because the price of a gallon of gas is not indexed that way, Americans would be disincentivized to drive as much as they did before the tax increases.

Adding to policymakers’ woes, the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles — especially on the West Coast — has already chipped away significantly at gas-tax proceeds, with further erosion in sight. For example, because it’s entirely electric, a Tesla S pays no gas taxes.

That’s why Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., put forth a proposal to kill the federal tax at the pump and replace it with a per-barrel tax on oil, also indexed to inflation. With that approach, DeFazio argued, consumers would be sheltered from the direct impact of new taxes, as oil companies wouldn’t be able (or perhaps willing) to pass all the costs onto their customers.

Whatever the relative merits of the idea, DeFazio’s proposal hasn’t caught on in Congress. What’s more, it hasn’t captivated policy experts, who have enthused about the behavior-shaping potential of mileage taxes.

A system based on electronically calculated mileage would allow policymakers the theoretical power to calibrate driving taxes based not just on raw miles driven, but on routes, congestion and other factors. From that standpoint, the real potential of a driving tax would be as the first mile in a new expansion of government control over drivers’ activities.

James Poulos is a contributor to Calwatchdog. This piece was originally posted on Calwatchdog.com.

Comments

  1. “Whatever the relative merits of the idea, DeFazio’s proposal hasn’t caught on in Congress. What’s more, it hasn’t captivated policy experts, who have enthused about the behavior-shaping potential of mileage taxes.”

    A nanny-staters mind would be a wonderful thing to waste.

  2. Of course, they will refund to purchasers all of the State taxes applied against each gallon of gasoline when all drivers are taxed per mile….
    of course they will.
    Tread carefully, My Friends; very carefully!

  3. It would seem to me that it would be better to put a head tax on all the illegal aliens living in California. If they did not pay the tax it would be illegal to rent housing or drive a car.

  4. If this libturd insanity goes thru it should be known as the ROAD RAGE tax because that is where it will LEAD! What in the hell do democrats smoke and drink up in Stinkramento? Liberal cesspool water?

  5. BS, it is just another way to take more money from the productive people in our state. Californians are already going to be hit with cap and trade starting next year that could add as much as 50 cents or more to a gallon of gas over the next few years. The efing idiots don’t understand that the more you tax something the less people use it. A great example is tobacco taxes. These fools raised tobacco taxes on the premise it would reduce smoking. It did, but the fools calculated what they would have to spend as a result of the increased tax on people smoking the same, not less. They then have already spent the increased revenue and are shocked when the increased tax doesn’t bring in as much as they calculated. Idiots, one and all.

  6. Freedom Fighter says

    Hey – Californians – WAKE UP!!!!! This is NOT another tax. It’s a definite way to start controlling where we go and when we go!!!!! Do contact your Reps – tell them NO!!! Unfortunately – mine are just whores at the pig trough of the state.

  7. Being a truck owner we had to keep a log book and pay state taxes we were required to buy fuel in every state. I have a thought when you buy a electric car every year you pay a road use tax when you pay your license for your electric car $$ 200.00 + your license ,after all you use our roads.

  8. Why not march to Sacramento and throw out the garbage liberals? They deserve noting but jail time

  9. Just another DEMOCRAT TAX AND SPEND PLAN…. The Democrats have already taxed everything they could……….. They still don’t realize there’s a spending problem………… They are just like a bunch of Heroin Addicts, except the only rehab for them is to boot them out of office.

  10. Fed-Up 4th Generationist says

    Let’s get rid of the 5 MILLION+ illegal aliens in California and put the $13 BILLION wasted on them towards fixing our roads instead? 5 million aliens also guzzle 10 BILLION gallons of our water each year, as well. And, while we’re at it, there will be plenty of room on the southbound busses for Moonbeam and all of the liberal loonies in Sacramento, a majority of which are more Mexico loyalists than Americans.

  11. Oh no!! The blood pressure is on the rise~~again.
    Someone, somewhere, need to get a petition going on TERM LIMITS for the mentally decrepit politicians in Sacradumbento. Four years maximum TOTAL for any and ALL political offices held.
    No retirement or healthcare packages allowed for any political office.
    The cesspool definitely needs a thorough cleaning, and a good place to start would be with ALL democrats with their nose in the public trough.
    I had a dream last week. (just an indication of how pathetic my life is) ALL politicians, Federal and State were required to release a copy of their HOUSEHOLD Federal and State income tax returns on a yearly basis. In my dream, Ms. Dianne Finkstein and her Billionaire husband were one of the first households to be prosecuted and incarcerated.
    Oh, what a beautiful dream!!!!
    In that dream, 95% of them went to jail in the first year on corruption charges. (Income tax evasion)

  12. They can suck it.

  13. David J. Ingraham says

    The Interstate high ways are nationally maintained, This concept should be evaluated at the federal level, not state. Also there is an alternate method to pay for our roads by going all electrical vehicle power. The electricity would be provided from solar panel that would line our national highways. The government can act as a non profit and sell the electricity to the public. The money earned from electricity sales would be used for maintenance of the high ways and the solar panels along the highways.

  14. Javenis Mydaus says

    Here is some real California logic for you: “Adding to policymakers’ woes, the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles — especially on the West Coast — has already chipped away significantly at gas-tax proceeds, with further erosion in sight. For example, because it’s entirely electric, a Tesla S pays no gas taxes.”

    While they pay no gas tax they do pay $.00029 per kilowatt hour on electricity.

  15. “DeFazio argued, consumers would be sheltered from the direct impact of new taxes, as oil companies wouldn’t be able (or perhaps willing) to pass all the costs onto their customers.”

    What is this guy, new?
    Or just nuts?

    Of COURSE the oil companies WILL pass this increase along to us, the consumers.
    DeFlabio is either a complete idiot, or more likely, just another LYING politician!

  16. Oh!!!!……..and they forgot to tell you, ANY EMPLOYEE, who is paid their salary by the “taxpayers”, is EXEMPT from this tax scheme.

    In the meantime, they are about to create a MEGA SIZE department of NEW government employees………most of the jobs going to ILLEGAL ALIENS.

    The California State Government officials are from HELL. PURE COMMUNIST, SOCIALIST, NAZIS (German language for National Socialist). California is no longer a legitimate AMERICAN state, by definition of it’s Constitution.

    The whole of the rest of the United States will be a better place when the GREAT EARTHQUAKE finally hits that dumps this CESSPOOL, the nation’s “toilet” under the ocean FOREVER!!

  17. You have got to be kidding! California is already paying the highest gas taxes in the US. What do you want us to do — walk? That would be fine if the developers, with the states blessing, hadn’t built up and out housing that people could afford????? Which of course they can’t! And they are still building waayyyy out! No wonder people and companies are leaving this state!

  18. Now exactly who is this going to hurt the most? Oh yeah the poor fool that has to commute 40 miles a day for a $25/hr job. I think it’s time to get rid of the Dims and restore some sanity to this state.

  19. Here’s a new business opportunity!!! How to out wit and out play this tax……….and it will happen. You lose Sacramento……….

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