Federal and state gas tax revenue funds our highways, but the amount of money coming in has been shrinking dramatically. Cars have become more fuel efficient and the tax isn’t linked to inflation. States like Oregon have pioneered a mileage-based tax, and California may finally be joining. A new bill to launch a pilot project is on the governor’s desk. SB 1077 (DeSaulnier) would sign up volunteers to test out how the tax might work in practice:
DeSaulnier emphasized that his legislation does not seek to add a new layer of taxation. Instead, it aims find an alternative to what could become an obsolete gas tax so the state can avoid what’s been called a “fiscal cliff” for highway funds.
“I don’t think people understand what dire shape our transportation funding is in,” the senator said. “We need to find a different funding source.”
Privacy advocates are concerned about the government tracking our whereabouts, but the key here is to offer options, such as having tax officials check your odometer each year rather than track your actual driving in real time. Of more concern to me is the potential disincentive to buy a fuel-efficient car, since all cars might be taxed the same. I would hope that any mileage-based tax provides discounts for electric vehicles, for example, until those technologies become widespread.