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Atkins Wants New Vehicle Fee For Transportation Projects

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The speaker of the California Assembly wants the state to put an extra $2 billion a year towards transportation projects. To pay for it, she wants to charge a new fee on every vehicle in the state.

Arnold Schwarzenegger rode voters’ anger over higher vehicle license fees to the governorship in the 2003 recall election. “I will immediately destroy the car tax!” he proclaimed at a campaign event that year. 

Twelve years later, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) is proposing a fee of a dollar a week per vehicle, $52 a year, to help pay for road and highway projects.

That’s on top of what Californians already pay in gas taxes. But Atkins says electric and fuel-efficient vehicles are reducing gas tax revenue.

“Yes, people are already paying for road maintenance,” Atkins says. “But what they’re paying in terms of the gas tax is not keeping up with the deferred maintenance or ongoing future maintenance of roads.”

The speaker’s proposal would require Republican votes to reach the necessary two-thirds legislative supermajority. Assembly Republicans say they support more money for transportation projects – but not by raising it this way.

“There are funding options for our critical road improvements other than looking deeper into the pockets of Californians,” said Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto).

Gov. Jerry Brown praised the speaker - without praising her proposal itself.

“This is an important issue and the Speaker is tackling it head on,” Brown said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Assembly and Senate - Democrats and Republicans - to address California's transportation needs.”

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