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New Taxes Down the Road

Marie Waldron

California has the highest gasoline prices in the country, and at 51.1 cents per gallon, our gasoline tax is also the highest. Keep in mind we have the country’s worst poverty rate, with many living just barely above the poverty level, and thousands have real problems just making ends meet.

Making matters worse, SB 339 has been signed into law by the Governor. It pilots implementation of a “Road Usage Charge” (RUC), to eventually charge motorists a “per mile driven” tax. We already pay over twice what other Americans pay for fuel and vehicle maintenance – SB 339 adds to the burden. Remember, the new RUC will be on top of the existing gas tax, and there’s no indication the gas tax will be reduced as the RUC is implemented. 

The RUC would replace declining gas tax revenues as motorists shift to Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs). But there’s a real problem. ZEV owners have a mean annual income of nearly $200,000/year, 81% are college educated and 81% are homeowners. For the most part, these are not people making two-hour commutes to get to work. Median and low-income commuters are rarely ZEV owners, nor are they likely to be anytime soon. SB 339 unfairly shifts the cost of maintaining roads to lower-income drivers and rural communities while giving wealthier ZEV owners what amounts to a ‘free ride.’

Gas taxes are constitutionally protected; funds cannot be diverted for non-transportation purposes. No such protections exist for RUC revenues, and history shows funds without constitutional protections can easily be diverted to other uses. 

Another problem – local jurisdictions, including San Diego County, are considering implementing their own RUC, so the state’s travel tax would be in addition to the county’s travel tax, on top of the gas tax. 

California’s lower-income drivers should not bear the burden of maintaining our state’s highways.

Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.