A hungry beast always prowling about for more tax revenue, the California state government is now “considering” a mileage tax that will charge drivers for every mile they drive.
Despite a new 12-cent increase in gas tax which recently went into effect on November 1, 2017, expected to bring in an estimated $52 billion in tax revenue, California still insists it needs more money for road repairs and that the gas tax isn’t bringing in enough revenue.
Phil Matier reports for KPIX5, Dec. 11, 2017, that the state recently road-tested a mileage monitoring plan, the California Road Charge Pilot Program, as a way for the state to move from its longstanding pump tax to a system where drivers pay based on their mileage.
State Senator Scott Wiener (D-SF) and others say it’s not just a question about money, it’s also a question about fairness. The openly “gay” Wiener says: “If you own an older vehicle that is fueled by gas, you’re paying gas tax to maintain the roads. Someone who has an electric vehicle or a dramatically more fuel efficient vehicle is paying much less than you are. But they are still using the roads. People are going to use less and less gas in the long run (and less gas means less gas tax, and less money for road repair.) We want to make sure that all cars are paying to maintain the roads.”
One idea would be to install devices that would clock your mileage every time you pull up to the pump or electric car charging station. Another idea is to put a tracker on every car. Wiener says, “The reality is that if you have a smartphone, your data of where you are traveling is already in existence.”
None of this is sitting well with drivers such as Joshua Li, the owner of a hybrid BMW. Li says he saves around $200 a month by not using gas, and would definitely not be happy if his driving was taxed per mile.
Randy Rentschler of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission says another solution is to raise the gas tax (again) and increase the vehicle registration fee for electric cars because “If you buy a small car that gets great fuel economy, we don’t get enough money to repair the roads.”
But that idea goes against California’s “green” commitment because raising vehicle registration fees and taxing people with fuel-efficient, hybrid or electric vehicles could also discourage people from purchasing such vehicles that are key to reducing vehicle emissions and improving air quality.