UPDATED: State report: Pilot program shows support for per-mile fee

By Signal Staff

Last update: Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

By Andrew Clark | Signal Staff Writer

A sample of about 5,000 California drivers widely supported a pilot program that could pave the way for taxing motorists in Santa Clarita and statewide on a per-mile basis, according to a state report released this month.

The pilot program comes on the heels of Senate Bill 1, which raised regular gasoline taxes at the pump from 29.7 cents to 41.7 cents per gallon beginning in November in order to repair roads and bridges and improve transit.

The pilot program was initiated via a 2014 law written by then-state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

Republican Rep. Steve Knight, who represented Santa Clarita in the state Senate at the time, voted against the study, while Republican Sen. Scott Wilk, who was in the state Assembly at the time, voted in favor of looking at what the program might entail.

Wilk said Wednesday he supported the study, but also that he wouldn’t vote for a mileage tax due to a series of moves made by Sacramento officials since the vote in their management of transportation funds, including the raising of the gas tax.

“People wanted to take a look at that to see if it was a viable option,” he said. “There’s no way I would ever support moving forward with a mileage tax.”

The program also takes into account Senate Bill 32, which requires the state to have a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“Historically, the taxes on those fuels provided the majority of the revenue required to maintain and operate our transportation network,” the state report said. “As future consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel declines, due to increased fleet efficiency, California will be challenged to sustain its $2.5 trillion economy. Continuing to depend on a consumption-based transportation model, while at the same time adopting policies to increase vehicle fuel efficiency and promote the reduction of vehicle miles traveled, puts into question the long-term viability of the gas tax as a sustainable revenue model.”

The pilot program included 5,000 passenger cars, trucks and fleet vehicles over a nine-month period. The report said 85 percent of participants approved of the program. Participants were pulled from across the state, including 41 percent from Southern California, 46 percent from Northern California and 13 percent from the central part of the state.

“Some of the high-level survey results indicate that participants felt a road charge is a more equitable transportation funding solution than the current gas tax, but additional research is needed before implementation,” the report said.

Among those that participated in the pilot program was Victor Lindenheim, executive director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition.

“I wasn’t totally thrilled,” he said. “It was a little confusing to me.”

Lindenheim said the system for reporting mileage allowed for multiple ways to send in data, though he just sent in his information by taking photos of his car’s odometer with his phone.

While the pilot program used a tax rate of 1.8 cents per mile, the program was not revenue-neutral for the state due to the vehicles being used having an average miles per gallon higher than the statewide average, the report said.

Caltrans said in the report that it will work with federal agencies on ways to administer the road charge.

“While the mileage reporting methods tested in the Road Charge Pilot Program are all feasible, they cannot compete with the simplicity, cost effectiveness, and public acceptance of the current gas tax collection process,” the report said. “Acknowledging the need to investigate a road charging mechanism that replicates the current user experience, Caltrans is embarking on a study of a pay-at-the pump model that could produce reduced administrative costs over the other methods tested.”

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UPDATED: State report: Pilot program shows support for per-mile fee

A sample of about 5,000 California drivers widely supported a pilot program that could pave the way for taxing motorists in Santa Clarita and statewide on a per-mile basis, according to a state report released this month. Nik Samuels | The Signal

By Andrew Clark | Signal Staff Writer

A sample of about 5,000 California drivers widely supported a pilot program that could pave the way for taxing motorists in Santa Clarita and statewide on a per-mile basis, according to a state report released this month.

The pilot program comes on the heels of Senate Bill 1, which raised regular gasoline taxes at the pump from 29.7 cents to 41.7 cents per gallon beginning in November in order to repair roads and bridges and improve transit.

The pilot program was initiated via a 2014 law written by then-state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

Republican Rep. Steve Knight, who represented Santa Clarita in the state Senate at the time, voted against the study, while Republican Sen. Scott Wilk, who was in the state Assembly at the time, voted in favor of looking at what the program might entail.

Wilk said Wednesday he supported the study, but also that he wouldn’t vote for a mileage tax due to a series of moves made by Sacramento officials since the vote in their management of transportation funds, including the raising of the gas tax.

“People wanted to take a look at that to see if it was a viable option,” he said. “There’s no way I would ever support moving forward with a mileage tax.”

The program also takes into account Senate Bill 32, which requires the state to have a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“Historically, the taxes on those fuels provided the majority of the revenue required to maintain and operate our transportation network,” the state report said. “As future consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel declines, due to increased fleet efficiency, California will be challenged to sustain its $2.5 trillion economy. Continuing to depend on a consumption-based transportation model, while at the same time adopting policies to increase vehicle fuel efficiency and promote the reduction of vehicle miles traveled, puts into question the long-term viability of the gas tax as a sustainable revenue model.”

The pilot program included 5,000 passenger cars, trucks and fleet vehicles over a nine-month period. The report said 85 percent of participants approved of the program. Participants were pulled from across the state, including 41 percent from Southern California, 46 percent from Northern California and 13 percent from the central part of the state.

“Some of the high-level survey results indicate that participants felt a road charge is a more equitable transportation funding solution than the current gas tax, but additional research is needed before implementation,” the report said.

Among those that participated in the pilot program was Victor Lindenheim, executive director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition.

“I wasn’t totally thrilled,” he said. “It was a little confusing to me.”

Lindenheim said the system for reporting mileage allowed for multiple ways to send in data, though he just sent in his information by taking photos of his car’s odometer with his phone.

While the pilot program used a tax rate of 1.8 cents per mile, the program was not revenue-neutral for the state due to the vehicles being used having an average miles per gallon higher than the statewide average, the report said.

Caltrans said in the report that it will work with federal agencies on ways to administer the road charge.

“While the mileage reporting methods tested in the Road Charge Pilot Program are all feasible, they cannot compete with the simplicity, cost effectiveness, and public acceptance of the current gas tax collection process,” the report said. “Acknowledging the need to investigate a road charging mechanism that replicates the current user experience, Caltrans is embarking on a study of a pay-at-the pump model that could produce reduced administrative costs over the other methods tested.”

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  • Carol Hadenough

    No way! I’m tired of Governor “moonbeam” Brown taxing us every time we turn around! We’ve been paying “gas taxes” for years without any accounting for how our money was spent. They just keep wanting more and more!

  • bill1477

    No! Stay out of our cars Governor Brown….

  • Brian Richards

    First of all, they don’t say if they would get rid of the existing 42 cent state tax on gas. As I ponder this question, I can almost guarantee the answer is NO they wont. They will keep at the very least a steep percentage of that 42 cents. Second, in my case I drive about 800 miles a month which means I’ll be paying 14 dollars a month which is less than the 21 dollars in gas tax that I’m paying now, naturally times two to account for my wife. This is a savings assuming they get rid of the existing tax. What I’m sure will happen though is that they will do both and costs will go up for me and everyone and naturally and typically, the poor and working middle class will get screwed again. It’s amazing to me that that the poor and middle class so often vote against their own financial interests. 85% of the people supported this scam? Are these the same people that said that Hillary had a 90% chance of being President?

    • Paul Dale

      Brian, there is another factor that I didn’t see addressed in the article – possibly because it hasn’t been considered in Sacramento. There are many, many Cali residents living near the AZ/NV/OR state lines and who, for a myriad of reasons, will be driving their Cali registered vehicle outside of Cali (as well as the large number of L.A. residents who frequently drive to Vegas). Will Cali “tax” them for the mileage driven outside of Cali and, if so, how will Cali know just how many miles were driven in Cali (taxable) and now many were driven outside of Cali (arguably not taxable since they were not driving on Cali roads/highways)?

  • Frank Rizzo

    Next up: Gov Brown will start taxing us for each breath we take. Want lower taxes? Stop breathing.

  • Stephanie Burkhart

    I simply cannot support this. This is insane. I can’t believe drivers with over a 1 mile commute support this. This measure does not have my support. Period.

  • Gary Bierend

    Let me guess, government vehicles will be exempt.

    Also, Wilk voted in favor of this until he didn’t like “their management of transportation funds”? Seriously? Where have you been? This de facto single party state ALWAYS squanders their tax dollars. Every. Single. Time. I find it hard to believe mismanagement of state funds came as a surprise to him.

  • Edward

    Everybody seems to be jumping the gun. What we have is a study to see if there is a possibility a VMT tax might work. Test done. Problems listed. Now we talk to the feds to see what they are planning.

    In twenty years a majority of vehicles will be non-petroleum powered. They will still use the roads. How to pay for road maintenance then? That is what this is all about. It won’t be here tomorrow, but it (or something very similar to it) will be used nationwide in the not too distant future. Isn’t the future interesting?