Give them an inch, they take a mile – and tax it

Driving is about to get more expensive – again.

Senate Bill 339, recently signed into law, authorizes the California Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee to strategize a pilot program, which will eventually charge California drivers a tax for every mile driven.

This legislation will make it remarkably more expensive for our rural communities and Californians’ pocketbooks can’t seem to catch a break. In the past year, consumer prices in the Western United States increased 5.3 percent. The cost of food has risen 4.7 percent, and energy prices jumped 25.1 percent, largely the result of an increase in the price of gasoline. It all adds up, and it’s hard to believe the current gas taxes will really go away once this new per-mile tax is applied.

While the purpose of SB 339 is to replace the gas tax revenue as more drivers move to Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV), this bill takes the wrong approach by going after those who drive long distances to work, school, or the grocery store. It’s a regressive tax that will hit low and middle-income households the hardest, who can least afford an additional expense. Many residents who can’t afford to live in California’s dense urban centers end up compromising with long commutes to and from work. The average transaction price of an electric vehicle according to Kelley Blue Book is $51,532, and the day-to-day realities of ZEV’s are unworkable for some given the unreliable electrical grid.

California’s 1st Senate District is a striking mosaic of suburbia, rural living and family ranches. When I think of Siskiyou County, home to the majestic Mt. Shasta, I see residents who enjoy the beautiful mountains, towering pines, snowfall, and seasonal outdoor recreation.  They shouldn’t be punished for choosing to live in a rural area.

I opposed SB 339, and will continue to object to this inequitable tax as it moves closer to implementation. Instead of more taxes, lawmakers should be doing all they can to make California affordable. These issues need to be addressed by the California Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee to ensure rural Californians don’t get the short-end of this regressive tax.