Gas tax revenues are steadily declining in California and lawmakers are looking for other ways to fund road repairs. Now the state is creating a pilot program that would instead charge drivers based on the miles they drive. California Transportation Commissioner Jim Madaffer is leading the pilot effort. He says the gas tax isn’t working anymore.
"We need a funding mechanism that kind of gets us back to when the gas tax was first implemented where it made sense. Everybody was getting 10 miles to a gallon in their car. And everybody put in gas only in their vehicles. So it was pretty fair," he says. "Today, people such as myself driving an electric car for the last two years, I haven’t paid a dime. Well, that’s not right."
Governor Jerry Brown's administration estimates California has a $59 billion road maintenance backlog.
Ideally, Madaffer says, volunteers would sign up throughout the state so the road charge could be tested in a variety of situations. Details like whether volunteers would be reimbursed for the fee have not yet been decided.
A pilot program must be in place by 2017. A final report must be presented to the Legisalture by 2018.
This effort is an addition to several others being proposed by lawmakers. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins has proposed charging drivers about $52 a year, with the money going to road repairs. Senator Jim Beall has authored a bill that would fund road maintenance through increased gas taxes and higher vehicle registration fees. Senator Bob Huff has introduced a Constitutional amendment to require funds designated for transportation be used for that purpose.