Golden Gate Bridge, connecting San Francisco and Marin County, California
Last week, the California state legislature approved a $52 billion transportation-funding package.
Unlike the practice in previous years, this one is to be used only for improvements to the transportation infrastructure, to begin cutting into an estimated $ 130 billion backlog of repairs and expansions.
As a result of the new bill, owners of zero-emission vehicles will pay a new fee of $100, along with increased vehicle registration fees that apply to all cars.
Barely reaching the minimum necessary number of votes, Governor Jerry Brown and the Democratic Legislature were able to pass the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, also known as SB1.
The new fees and increased taxes will amount to $52.4 billion over 10 years, according to an article in the Sacramento Bee.
A new, $100 annual fee will be imposed on all zero-emissions vehicles, although not until 2020. California now has almost half the country's battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars on its roads.
Plug In America, a nonprofit group, had advocated for a delay in implementing a fee until an unspecified number of electric vehicles were on the state's roads, to prevent it from being seen as a potential barrier.
All vehicles get hit with a calculated fee ranging between $25 and $175 depending on vehicle value in 2018.
Governor Jerry Brown said the bill ensures that most people will end up paying less than $10 in additional monthly registration fees.
That, he said, could end up being less than an owner's vehicle expenses and repairs from driving on beat-up roads.
For conventional vehicles that burn gasoline, the State will boost revenue through a $0.12-per-gallon gas-tax increase.
Officials say that amount accounts for inflation since the tax was last adjusted in 1994, more than 20 years ago. The new state gasoline tax will now total 30 cents, a 43-percent increase, to take effect November 1.
National Plug-In Day 2012: San Francisco, with 60 Nissan Leafs in front of the Golden Gate Bridge
Trying to cast the increase in a brighter light, officials say this time the money will go where it is intended—to pay for road repairs—because they have fixed the “leak," in which the funds collected were used for non-transportation projects.
Now that the bill has been approved, it’s up to civic groups and the tax-paying drivers to ensure the state remains accountable for spending the $5.24 billion annual fund in smart ways.
Many states have passed new fees on cars that use little or no gasoline, with variations from state to state.
The general goal is to replace the gasoline tax electric cars don't pay at all, and plug-in hybrids may pay in only tiny quantities.
But road funding overall is a huge challenge for the country at large, because the federal gas tax hasn't risen in more than 20 years and the Feds now send more money for roadwork to every single state than they receive in taxes.
With essentially flat total miles driven and increasing fuel-efficient cars covering them, the revenue from state and federal gas taxes is likely to stay static or decline further in coming years.
Tesla Motors, Palo Alto, California
While transportation policymakers suggest that a per-mile fee is a fairer and more equitable way to pay for road repairs, privacy concerns and the cost of implementing an entirely new system have slowed such efforts.
Thus far, only Oregon has experimented with such a method.
— Matt Pilgrim
[hat tip: Mary Demarest-Paran]