Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Let's Debate: Is imposing a Vehicle Mile Tax the right thing to do for California?

Coalition Concept: High Occupancy Toll Lanes along the I-15 Freeway near Corona Lake which supports free non-transponder carpooling and transit infrastructure. Should all motorists now be taxed per-mile to pay for infrastructure? Let's debate!
Note: Concept Only. Not endorsed by RCTC, Caltrans or any public agency.

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
riversidetransit@gmail.com


I'm following the progress of State Senate bill, SB 1077, which is sponsored by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord. Should the bill become law, it would launch a pilot program that would study implementing a per-mileage fee for all California motorists. The state bill would grant state agencies the power to track vehicle miles travelled by drivers who volunteer for the pilot program which would commence in 2016.

It has sparked some intense debate in the public court of opinion.

Here's the reason why this bill is being introduced: Politicians need to find a way to replace the fuel tax fund both at the state and federal level. For decades, motor vehicles are more fuel efficient. And they are becoming more fuel efficient. In fact, if all-electric cars like Tesla combined with solar energy production become the norm, the fuel tax fund will certainly be threatened. The funding source will eventually have to be replaced without question.

Currently, the Highway Trust Fund is going broke. However, even with the transportation spending combined with inflation and more fuel-efficient cars, federal fuel tax receipts are still at record high levels. With the federal kitty broke and our infrastructure still at a sub-par state, the question is where has all that money that you and I paid into gone? The current issue is not whether the federal government is getting enough revenue, but how the money is being spent during a soft market economy. However, to be fair, the revenue source eventually must be replaced.

So, this is where we are. I'm not a real fan of SB 1077 and I'll explain why on Monday. But this blog has already submitted a possible fair alternative to replace the fuel tax fund which is certainly subject to debate as it has yet to be proven. Also, we generally support high occupancy toll lanes that allow for free non-transponder carpooling as a means to help pay for rapid express bus transit and general maintenance of specific highway corridors. Just like many other complex problems, there will be multiple solutions that may work. But the fix must be fair and just and that's what this blog has submitted.

The Transit Coalition's Future Vision of Inland Empire Mass Transit is far from being funded. Budgets from our transit agencies are at slim levels. Our existing infrastructure generally remains sub-par. Too much government red tape has inflated public works costs. The Inland Empire market economy is still at a soft state. What's your solution? Let the debate commence.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not opposed to a VMT, just to a GPS-based implementation of it. Although the ranks of cars not required to get a smog test for their registration is growing, the vast majority of cars do still have to stop by at least once every other year. Those tests just also happen to record the vehicle mileage. It shouldn't be much harder to then use that information to bill for mileage and exempt vehicles could just be required to stop by a DMV office for a simple mileage check.

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