Would you pay a penny per mile? California State looks at charging by how much you drive

Now California is one of several states to consider replacing the state gas tax with a charge for every mile driven.

An efficient transportation system is critical to California’s economy and our quality of life. We need a long-term replacement for the outdated gas tax, as it cannot meet our transportation funding needs in the future. A year after being directed per Senate Bill (SB) 1077 to study a “road charge,” we are now ready to take the next steps with a pilot program that explores how a road charge can work in California.

Why is California Studying a Road Charge?

  • We are considering a road charge as a potential replacement for the gas tax. The revenues currently available for highway and local roads are insufficient for preserving and maintaining road infrastructure, reducing congestion and improving the driving experience.

  • As vehicle fuel efficiency increases, fewer gallons of gas are being purchased, creating a loss in revenue needed to maintain our highway system if the state were to continue with the gas tax.

  • Despite the decline in gas tax revenue, more cars are using California’s roads and the wear and tear on roadways is increasing.

  • California drivers are suffering the consequences of this extra wear and tear on their vehicles. According to TRIP, a national transportation research group, poor road conditions cost the average California driver $762 per year in operating and repair costs.

In a state where the car is king, roads have become paupers.The state’s 18-cent gas excise tax, the primary source of money for road repairs and operations, has remained unchanged since 1994. Attempts to raise it have been stymied by political opposition. At the same time, statewide gas sales have slid 7 percent since 2006, even as the population has climbed.

The California Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee was established in 2014 by Senate Bill 1077 (Chapter 835, Statutes of 2014). SB 1077 created the California Road Usage Charge Pilot Program and tasked the Chair of the Commission, in consultation with the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) to convene a fifteen member Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to study road usage charge alternatives to the gas tax, gather public comment, and make recommendations to CalSTA regarding the design of a road usage charge pilot program. The TAC may also make recommendations on the criteria to be used to evaluate the pilot program. CalSTA is charged with implementing a pilot program by January 1, 2017 and reporting its findings on the pilot program to the TAC, the Commission, and the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature by June 30, 2018. The Commission shall include its recommendations regarding the pilot program in its annual report to the Legislature. The provisions of SB 1077sunset on January 1, 2019.