That bill that raised the California state fuel tax also charges owners of electric powered vehicles 100 bucks a year.
Since most of the fuel tax goes to maintaining and building roads, that seems only fair.
SB1, the fuel tax bill, was necessary because members of both parties in Sacramento failed to raise the tax for about 20 years.
Which was idiotic because the cost of building and maintaining roads skyrocketed during those two decades while less fuel was sold and taxed due to more efficient engines and the advent of electric powered vehicles.
My fun and feisty Ford Fiesta, for example, averages 34 miles per gallon while being the second most enjoyable vehicle I have ever driven. (Ranked first is the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank I got to drive at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland during the eighties.)
I get such good mileage with the Fiesta that I occasionally get plaintive emails from Chevron saying they miss me at their pumps.
Like all taxes, the $100 electric vehicle charge is controversial.
It’s really not the best way to pay for roads as cars use less fuel and the number of electric vehicles is slowly rising. After last week’s Mojave Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Mariah Comfort Inn, the manager showed off all the new electric charging stations they’ve installed.
(Along with their new handicapped parking ramp, which embarrassingly puts to shame the bizarre, dangerous and ineffective arrangement at the Mojave Post Office.)
The best way is to pay for roads is to tax by miles driven rather than gallons or kilowatts purchased.
That scheme has been proven in testing and use in this country and Europe.
Aside from the usual horror of being something new and different, a mileage tax proposal has raised the expected opposition.
The biggest fear is that it will somehow let government know where we’ve been driving.
Several years ago California tested the concept, which I and others tried, including a friend who commutes daily to Bakersfield from Rosamond, and we lived to tell the tale.
I could see little or no difference.
One complaint, raised in a strange editorial in this paper at the time, worried that commuters would pay more because they drive more miles.
Uh, the editorial overlooked the obvious reality that the farther we drive, the more fuel we use.
Paying for kilowatts
Yes, electric vehicle users pay for electricity, but that may eventually go away as solar panels on vehicles, which are being developed, create the first truly perpetual motion machines.
Fuel and mileage taxes are really user fees we pay to ensure we have good roads.
Having tried driving and using public transport to get back and forth to work I’ve always had better luck on buses and trains because someone else is doing the driving while I’m reading or dozing or looking out the window.
When we were working in D.C. some of our colleagues were able to take college classes while riding to work on their commuter trains.
We have to remember that times change and alternatives to crawling along “freeways” are increasing.
By the way, cops — and others — can often get an idea of where you’ve been by checking credit card receipts. (“Dearest, what’s this charge for the Spotty Sheets Motel in Wasco?”)
Speaking of taxes
There are probably more myths about California’s Proposition 13 than about anything involving property tax.
California boomed during World War II and Korea as it became the world’s aviation center, which continued until the end of the Cold War.
Population exploded, Southern California expanded into the desert, and new towns blossomed into life, including California City and Hesperia.
Because of this, housing prices grew which increased assessed valuations.
An old-timer living in Wonders Acres near Mojave suddenly found his property tax bill had exploded because bare land near him was now selling at ridiculous prices.
People who had been living in the same place for decades, especially senior citizens, found they could not pay their new tax bills and had to sell their homes and move (and make big bucks off the sale.)
Tax rates were not raised by local government but they got much of the blame — a tax bill is a tax bill, after all.
Prop. 13 was created by a couple of guys named Jarvis and Gann and it passed.
There’s a lot more to the story but it is interesting to note, after reading recent letters to this paper, that tax rates wouldn’t probably raise much if 13 was defeated, which will never happen.
My wife and I lived 12 years in northern Virginia during the ‘80s and no widows and orphans were being evicted because of their property tax bills.
High tax reputation
Ironically, Prop. 13 is what gave California a high tax reputation.
After it passed people continued to demand services so high income and sales taxes replaced lower property tax revenues. No one complaining about taxes ever notes that we have one of the nation’s lowest property taxes.
Also, as I have previously written, since property taxes had been local government’s primary revenue source, 13 transferred control of local government to the state which controls sales and income taxes.
We all know how well that works.
It also made it pretty much impossible for unincorporated communities to become cities and control their own destinies.
Finally, a measure that will appear on the November ballot would raise property taxes solely on business properties since they do not change hands — and have their taxes raised — as often as we homeowners.
It will not have any effect on homeowners’ taxes despite what you may have heard or read.
A Prop. 13 on the March ballot is for bonds to build and repair schools.