Joan Borucki, the future new head of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has issued a proposal of a new tax on the already financially stressed citizens of the Golden State: a mileage tax on all vehicles driving in the great state of California.
Under Borucki’s current proposal, instead of the $.18 per gallon gas tax we presently pay at the pump, all vehicles in California would be fitted with some kind of a GPS tracking device which would log the mileage traveled for that vehicle. When the occupant of the vehicle goes to get gas, a transmitter in the GPS device will transmit the mileage to a receiver in the gas pump and the tax would be added to the total gas bill. Parts of Washington State and Oregon are already testing out this new technology.
This begs the question: Why is there a proposed mileage tax? We already pay a ton of money into the system in the form of a gas tax. Where is that money? Well, it turns out that Californian’s have been doing exactly what has been asked of them: Buying more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly cars. Vehicles like Hybrids and fuel efficient Honda’s are taking money out of the tax pool by not having to fill up as often as your regular car. Put another way, Sacramento is upset because we are buying cars that are economically smart for the consumer, and better for the environment.
Because the tax pool is dwindling down, the money for California’s highway repair costs isn’t available. Freeways are being abused by the heavy traffic flow, and Californian’s are wasting on the average an estimated 55 + hours per year statewide just sitting in traffic In Los Angeles, that number is quite a bit higher at 90 something hours per year spent on the freeways. Plus the fact that both former Governor Gray Davis and current Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger each stole $1 Billion out of the gas tax fund for who knows what various social programs/small interest groups, the money for our highways simply isn’t there.
Another part of Borucki’s proposal is using the GPS device to assist the management of car insurance and registration. With GPS tracking, they expect to be able to tell when someone is on the road without registration and insurance. A signal would be sent to the Police who would be able to stop and impound that car. This same type of technology could potentially be used to help find a stolen car, though that benefit wasn’t suggested under Borucki’s plan.
In Washington, the GPS device is being used for something else: To track what roadways and freeways commuters are driving on. The mileage tax will be levied not only based on how many miles you drive, but also what routes you take. For example, someone whose daily commute forces them to take busier roads to work will pay a higher tax than someone who has the luxury of being able to avoid traffic. While the hope is to help cut down on the volume of traffic on the busier roads, traffic will wind up increasing on surface streets and other roadways not designed to handle large quantities of traffic. So, while potentially making traffic lighter on freeways, trying to get to work by taking surface streets gets worse. A lot worse.
So are there any benefits in this proposed tax increase? Sure, there are always some benefits to every tax increase. There would be more money for highways to be re-built or expanded. And there would be more money for…. Wait, the gas tax fund we are already paying is supposed to fix the roads, isn’t it?
What it boils down to is mismanagement of funds in Sacramento resulting in Californian’s having to pay more out of our pockets. The downsides of this proposed tax far outweigh the potential benefit. For starters, let’s state the obvious: it’s yet another tax, which means less money for us and more money for the government. Coupled with the fact that there is absolutely NO GUARANTEE that the money from this proposed tax is going to only go towards highway and roadway improvement makes me already hate the proposal. Sacramento has $200 million to go towards re-vamping death row at San Quentin but they don’t have enough money to fix our roads or expand our freeways. Our death row criminals need a pretty place to look, yet our overcrowded streets can stay just that- overcrowded. I think Californians already pay enough and that it is time we force our state officials to fix their mistakes and to stop penalizing us for them.
The next downside is that they want to install GPS trackers into every car. For once I agree with the Libertarians in feeling that this is an invasion of privacy. Not only would they be able to track what roads we take, but those records could wind up subpoenaed in a court of law. They would know my driving habits, what roads I take to go wherever and could possibly be able to find out who I visit and what stores I shop at. They could also use this kind of technology to send me a ticket every time I go over the speed limit or roll through a ridiculously slow traffic light. Heaven forbid I roll through a red light after I sat at that red light for 10 minutes without it noticing my car is there and turning Green. Send me my ticket please!
And then issuing the tax based on what roads you travel. The genius’s in Sacramento need to come and try taking surface streets to get to where I work. It’s a royal pain in the ass, and I don’t even have it that bad compared to many of my co-workers and friends outside of the office. So trying to force commuters to take alternate routes doesn’t work.
Their answer is to have you take public transportation or to carpool. Who wants to get to the bus station 3 hours before they have to be at work? And the billions spent on the subway system in Los Angeles have gone to waste. Here’s a clue: no one takes the subways! Stop spending money on them!
And carpooling- It’s a great plan but has proven ineffective. Most people don’t work with their neighbors. And if they do work together, chances are they don’t share the same schedule. Not a single co-worker I work with lives anywhere near my area. Nor do they live near each other. An immediate and simple solution to traffic congestion would be to open the carpool lanes. They tried this in New Jersey not too long ago, and it worked so well at relieving congestion that they opened up all carpool lanes to everyone. 97% of the commuters on the roads in California aren’t able to take the carpool lanes. The three percent who are able to take the carpool lanes are either those fortunate few who live together, or the soccer moms picking up their kids from soccer practice or school. There are sections on the 405 and the 5 where traffic is simply jammed up with every crowding the lanes between the carpool lane, yet when that carpool lane opens up to a free flowing lane, traffic suddenly clears and speeds up! What is it about that concept that the think tank in Sacramento cannot figure out? This will not only reduce congestion, but will help clean our air as cars won’t be parked on the freeway while emitting their exhaust. Instead, people will be getting home sooner; their cars will be turned off sooner which means that pollution will decrease. Wow, what an interesting idea!
Businesses will be hurt by such a tax. Now I am sure the kind folks in Sacramento would offer some kind of tax exemption for companies who rely on traveling as their means of conducting business. Seriously, are they really planning to tax the hell out of UPS, trucking companies, the police department and the pizza guy? I would hope not. But travel destinations would get affected. Car rental prices will have to go up to accommodate for the tax. The cost of moving will rise to pay for the U-Haul. Trips to Tahoe? Forget it! How about that drive along the coast, or the trip to Magic Mountain or Sea World? Planning on going up north to Aunt Edna’s? Not anymore! The impact of such a tax does a lot more than just screw the people who bought hybrids and Hondas. It screws everyone. The people who have to commute from Riverside to Orange County or Los Angeles might as well hand over their pay checks to the state. Those concerned with trying to help the environment by buying more economically friendly cars need not worry anymore since you will be paying the same fuel tax as your friend in the gas-guzzling Hummer. You might as well save your money and buy something that doesn’t get as much in fuel mileage. You’ll need the savings to pay your mileage tax.