Years of worrying about traffic congestion, spending on widening roads, adding infrastructure and focusing on commercial shipping in California - over doing things like actually repairing roads and bridges looks to have finally come home to roost in the Golden State.
The repairs bills are mounting, and there is currently a $5.7 billion annual funding gap between the state's road repair budget and the revenue coming in via the gas tax.
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Potentially caught up in this issue is the electric car, as a new proposition that would increase the gas tax, may also put a fee on plug-ins at the same time.
“We’re in such a desperate need for funding. We’ve just come through the worst recession any of us have been able to see, and there wasn’t any funding. That’s costing us, because for every dollar we didn’t spend, now it’s costing us $9 to fix.” - Assemblyman Jim Frazier, chairman of the Assembly’s transportation committee (via Bloomberg)
The gas tax in California today stands at almost 49 cents - one of the highest levels in the country, but the slowdown in the economy and state's several successful campaigns to get motorists to switch to more fuel efficient hybrids and electric cars, has now been blamed for the shortfall.
California's DoT says that 564 bridges are currently distressed, and that 41 percent of the state’s 50,000+ miles of highway also require maintenance or are in distress. The department says it needs about $8 billion per year going forward to repair the roads, but the gas tax will only being in about $2.3 billion this year.
Plans ranging from increasing the tax by 12 cents, to diverting $3 billion from California's cap-and-trade market, have been suggested.
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For us, the most interesting suggestion gaining traction is putting fees on the 150,000-odd electrified vehicles in operation in California. Bloomberg reports the following on the movement:
"Senate Republican Minority Leader Bob Huff said there may be an appetite by members of his party to support indexing the gas tax to inflation. He also said he could see common ground on imposing fees on electric cars or those not paying their fair share."
Earlier suggestions on taxing electric vehicles based on miles driven ultimately proved too difficult to find "common ground" on.
Most recently in April, the state with the 2nd highest EV adoption (after California) - Georgia put a $200 annual road use fee in place - which makes the tax burden of a plug-in roughly equal to a SUV in that state. Such a program in California could generate as much as $50,000,000 in new revenue.
There is no question that California needs a lot more money to support its transportation system, but is now the time to start equalizing electric vehicle's fair road use with the common car? It might just be.
Bloomberg, Hat tip to sven!