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Pay-per-Mile in California?

LA Times. As Californians drive increasingly more fuel-efficient cars, state officials are alarmed that the gasoline tax will not raise enough money to keep up with road needs. As a result, California is considering replacing its state gas tax ($0.18/gallon) with a tax on every mile traveled by each car and truck. Devices placed on every vehicle would track where, how far and when vehicles travel.

For the state budget, the trend looks grim. Revenue from the gas and diesel fuel tax—about $3.3 billion—will have declined 8% between 1998 and 2005, adjusted for inflation, but the amount of miles traveled by cars and trucks on California roads has increased 16%, according to a February report by the legislative analyst. The California Transportation Commission has said the state needs about $100 billion in road and freeway repairs.

The new director of DMV for California has advocated this pay-per-mile approach in the past. From a policy point of view, the tracking could support variable pricing for congestion management—i.e., charge a higher rate per mile for rush hour freeway use.

To be truly equitable from the perspective of allocating the cost burden for road repair proportional to use, the policy would have to factor in weight as well. In other words, a Class 8 truck rumbling down a highway is going to cause more road wear than a Honda Insight skimming along a residential road.

If this is implemented, the contract for developing the complex IT and communications infrastructure that tracks, calculates and bills all this is going to be immense. It was tough enough getting electronic toll payments on the bridges around San Francisco.

At this point in time, though, this proposal is a bad idea— it neutralizes financial benefits for fuel efficiency and alternative fuels. The concern about revenue generation for road maintenance should not obscure the longer-term need for policies that encourage changes in driving behavior for the better—i.e., toward the sustainable. Fuel efficiency and low-carbon approaches should be rewarded (or high fuel consumption and high carbon emissions should be penalized, whichever your perspective). In the future of renewable, non-polluting transportation, by all means, tax mileage. But not now, or at least not solely.

There is a much simpler way to do this. Just raise the fuel tax. That would have the double benefit of re-filling the maintenance coffers while maintaining a sharper incentive for moving toward fuel efficiency and alternatives.

Comments

Kevin Pearce

This idea that taxing per mile is absolutely ridiculous. What about the benefits of having a more fuel-efficient car? There is no economic incentive to use a hybrid vehicle if you tax per mile. The thought of the government tracking my car everywhere I drive is outrageous! The government is becoming more and more like big brother. I cannot believe that this is even a real idea because it is such an epic invasion of privacy. People need to open their eyes and demand the government to come up with alternative ideas.

G. hill

Makes perfect sense to a screwball....tax productivity, hit the independent contractor, outside sales rep.s, small business owners where it hurts the most (in an industry neccessary activity) and run the "riffraff" out of CA.
This is "statist" reasoning. Also we have a Democrat for a governor. He knew he had all the democrat votes he needed so he ran as a Republican. Is it any surprise that he appointed a democrat to head the state dept. of transportation?
Arnold is an Austrian with an obvious European influence in his political ideology. We do not need that in California. This tax per mile sounds the kind of heavy handed driving regulations out of Germany. Next we will be in the EU! Can you say liter and kilometer?
The root of the problem is that democrats got into DMV monies and gas tax revenues. Spend 100% of these monies for the purpose they were originally intended to
be used for.
A larger underlying problem is the fact that infrastucture is not properly calculated! Degredation
is not exponentially calculated. Lost productivity from longer commutes, the huge cost (calculating for inflation) of extra lanes, overpasses, new bridges, is not being assesed on new development. An additional $20,000 tacked on the the existing price of each new unit would only begin to approach the real costs associated over time of just one household.
Placing a total moratorium on immigration and development in CA and other fast growing states that are in financial difficulty in conjunction with taxing money that flows out of CA. into Mexico, etc. would all
help to correct the CA. problem.
What is clear is that politicians know well how to ride the WAVE of development but they only know how to pray that when it BREAKS it will be on another mans term of office. Davis spent money when the wave was already begining to fall.............

Steven Wilmert

This idea is totally absurd. I won't repeat all the same concerns about fuel efficient cars and hurting the low income people. Let's look at California. I just heard on the news of about a billion dollars they spend each year on stupid things. California Medicaid covers plastic surgery. Inmates can get sex changes and a whole host of other great medical services. It is time for the country as a whole to get more fiscally sound. The Government's job is to govern and protect. Not provide everything for everybody.

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