California nears plan to charge drivers by the mile

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor

The California Legislature approved a bill to change how the state raises revenue for transportation work.State senators voted 23-11 to sign off on changes to a bill that would set up a task force to develop a voluntary program to test a new way to get money from highway users.   SB1077 now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.   Assembly lawmakers already approved it on a 46-26 vote.  

Specifically, the bill would authorize a pilot program in the state to assess the practicality of taxing truckers and other drivers based on vehicle miles traveled in the state. The VMT tax could replace the state’s fuel tax as people are driving vehicles that get better mileage.  Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, says the excise tax is “not a long-term viable funding solution.”   He describes his bill as “a critical first step toward California considering a mileage-based fee” as an alternative to the excise tax on fuels.  Oregon and Washington are testing similar programs.

DeSaulnier has said his proposed pilot program is a reasonable approach to address the impending fiscal cliff for transportation funding.  “We have to look at these kinds of things as Oregon and Washington have in anticipation of this cliff we’re about to go off,” DeSaulnier told Senate lawmakers prior to a floor vote.  The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is on the record as opposing the VMT tax.   The Association sent communication to California lawmakers conveying the concerns of professional truckers.  OOIDA Director of State Legislative Affairs Mike Matousek told lawmakers the Association supports investments into transportation infrastructure.  “However, if additional revenue is needed, increasing the fuel tax is the most equitable and efficient option, so long as the generated revenue is used for its intended purpose,” he said.

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