Opinion

by Bill McEwen

The propensity for political whiplash in California is such that someday we may be required to wear seatbelts while sitting on the couch.

We’ve been kicking in an extra 12 cents a gallon for gas and 20 more cents a gallon for diesel for just 38 days and already state officials are saying it won’t be enough to build and maintain  Golden State roads and bridges.

In addition, come Jan. 1, Californians will start digging into their pockets to pay for an “annual vehicle fee.” This new charge, which is in addition to your annual registration fee, ranges from $25 for a vehicle valued at under $5,000 to $175 for a vehicle worth $60,000 or more.

As we are talking about Taxifornia, I imagine the DMV will base the value of everyone’s cars on high Kelley Blue Book in Beverly Hills.

One more thing. Electric car owners will be hit with another $100 annual fee beginning in 2020.

New Charges Siphon $5 Billion a Year From Californians

It adds up to more than $5 billion a year siphoned out of California wallets.

Yet, as The Sacramento Bee reported this week, state transportation officials say it won’t be nearly enough to keep pace with the wear and tear on roads and highways — or to ease traffic jams on popular routes.

Thus, the folks up in the Capitol are contemplating a new way to repair potholes and keep our state’s 35 million cars, trucks, motorcycles and motorhomes moving.

Their potential solution: Switching from a tax at the pump to charging for the number of miles driven.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, you’ve got an excellent memory. The state has been conducting a pilot program in which 5,000 people volunteered to use wireless technology that logged their driving miles. The participants then pretended to pay their mileage charges online.

Transportation officials now are looking into technology to simplify the process. They envision a system that reads your odometer at the pump or electric charging station and a 2025 starting date.

Beware of Unintended Consequences

The pay-per-mile approach is sound in theory. The more miles you drive, the more wear and tear you put on roads.

However, there’s something else to consider. The reason for the shortage of road funds, according to state officials, is California’s embrace of fuel-efficient vehicles. When vehicles go further on a tank of gas, the state rakes in less at the pump.

Those who are trying to repeal the gas-tax and fee hikes counter that the state would have ample road funds — if it didn’t waste them.

Taxing-per-mile is “another terrible idea from Sacramento Democrats to reduce productivity,” GOP gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen of Huntington Beach tweeted Thursday.

 

 

It goes without saying that taxing by the mile would discourage people from buying hybrid and electric vehicles. These are the same cars and trucks that Gov. Jerry Brown and other Democrats want us using to reduce pollution emissions and combat global warming.

This proposed taxing system also would hit rural low-income communities harder than wealthy areas. Where’s the equality in that?

Road taxes by the mile? There are many roadblocks in its path.

But I learned long ago to never say “never.”

In Taxifornia, the political whiplash capital of America, anything is possible.

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