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Desegregating toys in stores is pressing but not addressing growing road tax inequity?
Dennis Wyatt RGB
Dennis Wyatt

Pity the guy driving a 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan.

If he drives 12,000 miles a year, he is annually paying the state $349.80 for road upkeep and new highway projects to the state and another $110.40 to the federal government for the same thing.

That’s based on getting 20 miles per gallon and a state gas tax of 58.3 cents per gallon and an 18.4 cent federal tax.

If someone drives a Tesla, Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt or any other electric vehicle they are paying zilch in road taxes based on how much they travel.

Yes, Senate Bill 1 that gave us a 12 cent gas tax hike in 2018 slapped a $100 annual fee in electric vehicles to go toward road upkeep.

That’s $100 a year for an electric traveling 12,000 miles, 9,000 miles or 30,000 miles a year.

Based on 12,000 miles the Dodge Grand Caravan with a curb weight of 4,510 pounds pays $460.20 or $360.20 more than a Tesla S with a curb weight of 4,697 pounds toward paying for roads.

The fact the vehicles based on curb weight create roughly the same wear and tear on the roads and if both travel the same distance, the Dodge Grand Caravan owner is subsidizing the Tesla S owner.

This cannot be justified based on the carbon footprint of the vehicle. That’s because the gas tax is essentially a users’ tax for roads and not an air quality initiative.

Back in September Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order setting Jan. 1, 2035 as the start date for a ban on the sale in California of any new vehicle that is not zero emissions.

Like most government edicts beyond the grand gesture there was not a peep from the governor or the California Legislature on what that means in reality other than on the green front.

In 2020 there were 27.7 million registered vehicles in California of which 655,088 were zero emission.

That means 655,088 vehicles being driven are likely substantially under paying for the pounding and use of the state’s highways as well as the federal interstate system.

Based on 20 miles per gallon the $100 annual electric car road fee the DMV collects covers the equivalent of 3,430 miles of road use in a given year.

Not only is the wide gap between gas and electric car owners unfair given the tax is collected for road upkeep and not air quality, but it is also wildly unsustainable when it comes to California’s road needs. Every passing year electric vehicles that are subsidized with tax credits before keys are delivered to new owners cut into the revenue stream to pay for local, state, and federal roads.

Why this matters now is the recall.

One of the leading candidates working toward getting on the replacement ballot should enough signatures be verified to give Newsom the hook is John Cox. He’s the Republican who tried to ride the gas tax backlash to the governor’s office but ended up losing to Newsom in 2018.

Cox, of course, was against the tax although he never really made it clear how he would specifically fund the need to upgrade the state’s deteriorating roads.

One wonders whether Cox this time around would have the moxie to ride a bit of a different horse using the growing inequity of the gas tax as opposed to simply saying he oppose it.

In doing so he can underscore a growing inequity in California where the brunt of the cost of the state’s green initiatives whether it is through the price we pay for electricity to incentives for electric car owners that allow them to essentially be parasites on everyone else when it comes to paying for roads falls on the back of the working stiffs and the lower middle income class. This is a point not driven home by the current Democratic majority in Sacramento or by the Republican minority for that matter.

It would be nice for someone to have a conversation with voters about making taxes more equitable and stop using the tax code to pick winners and losers while at the same time having sustainable government that can keep infrastructure from falling apart.

Cox may not be the man for the job, but someone who is not in power needs to lead us out of this mess.

There is a simple solution. The state needs to mandate that all new electric vehicles sold in California after Jan. 1, 2023 to have onboard devices that reports the miles drive each month. The DMV would bill the owners monthly taking the miles driven, dividing it by the average EPA for new gas-powered cars sold in California the year the electric car in question was purchased and then multiple it by the state gas of 58.3 cents.

Those electric vehicles would not be charged the $100 annual road fee some owners object to because they have a somewhat smaller carbon foot print. They would, however, be charged the annual road use fee Senate Bill 1 put into place. That fee ranges from $25 for vehicles valued under $5,000 to $175 for those vehicles worth $60,000 plus.

That would still give electric vehicle owners a break from the 17.1 cent per gallon gas tax until such time Congress gets its act together.

There are those who object to such devices as they view it as Big Brother stuff.

But the ship is already sailing with the mandate essentially banning the sale of all new fossil fuel powered vehicles in California after Jan. 1, 2035.

Those in power in Sacramento have an obligation to make sure our roads don’t fall in disrepair. There are also needs to be a targeted tax with audit trails such as the gas tax so the money collected for roads isn’t raided for other projects by being mixed with the state’s general fund.

Once the recall becomes real, we will be fed sound bites non-stop.

Each Californian who is eligible to vote will first have to decide whether Newsom deserves to be recalled.

Unfortunately most of the furor will be focused on the issue of whether Newsom should be yanked from office giving those running a bigger chance than usual to dodge answering specific questions on how they would govern differently.

Playing Monday morning quarterback on Newsom’s COVID-19 response is not that difficult to do given the passion about checking the spread and vaccinations as well as the lockdowns and the economic and family stress that has caused.

Setting one apart from the hummingbird approach to governing that is so prevalent today in Sacramento by zipping from one subject to another without lingering to work out details would not be politics as usual.

Given the campaign banter from those chomping at the bit to get Newsom recalled and who want to replace him there is not much hope of that happen.

As for the California Legislature stepping up and addressing mundane things such as tax fairness and keeping the road fund whole, they are too busy pursuing important stuff such as desegregating toy sections in stores.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation.