Gas Tax vs. Fee on Miles Driven

Seeking a creative and long-term solution for financing highway and road construction and upkeep, a new commission kicked off its investigation of a “Road User Charge” as a possible replacement for the well-traveled gasoline tax.

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Created by 2014 legislation and given the nod by Governor Brown, the ponderously-named Road User Charge Pilot Program Technical Advisory Committee kicked off its deliberations last week. I am privileged to have been appointed one of of the committee’s 15 members, representing business and economic interests.

A confluence of forces continues to reduce the effectiveness of the gasoline tax as a stable revenue source for highways. Pegged to the amount of gasoline purchased, the tax could keep pace neither with inflation in construction costs or increased efficiency in automobile performance. CalTrans has estimated that inflation and improved vehicle efficiency has eroded more than 60 percent of the value of the gasoline tax since 1994. 

And this is before the ambitious roll-out of electric, plug-in hybrid and fuels cell vehicles in the state – which use little or no gasoline and therefore are the quintessential “free riders.”

In his inaugural address, Gov. Brown spoke of the “importance in having the roads, highways and bridges in good enough shape to get people and commerce to where they need to go,” estimating that the state has deferred maintenance and upkeep needs of $59 billion. In calling for a bipartisan solution for transportation finance, the Governor did not single out a mileage fee, but this option is certainly deeply in the mix.

The Advisory Committee has an ambitious agenda: within one year it must recommend how the state’s Transportation Agency can launch a pilot program testing a Road User Charge in real world circumstances. The committee will examine technical feasibility, reliability, implication for privacy rights, data security, motorist compliance, and overhead costs.

California will probably not break new policy ground on this project. The states of Oregon and Washington are already examining mileage fee alternatives, with Oregon on the verge of implementing a pilot project with 5,000 volunteer motorists. Findings from these other West Coast states will be invaluable for California’s consideration.

For more information on this effort and on the Technical Advisory Committee, visit this website at the California Transportation Commission.

Originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily


  1. Zamparippa says

    How will I be taxed in California if I drive through Arizona and New Mexico and Texas????

    • They will track your mileage either by GPS or you will have to put it in at the pump, in doing this you will pay the tax even if you leave the state.

  2. considering how they think up in Sacramento don’t be surprised if they decide to keep the the gas tax and add the mileage tax. Standby!
    As an after thought do you think they will have someone at the state boarder to collect the mileage tax owed from those leaving the state?

  3. First, you have to answer one simple question:
    Why, when driving to Las Vegas, is the condition of I-15 in CA so crappy, and in NV it is mirror-smooth (the way CA’s roads were before Brown got his hands on them in the 70’s)?

  4. The real question is where was the money spent that was collected by the gas tax.

    • I agree with John. The legislators have been diverting funds out of the Gas Tax pool for years to try and “balance” the budget. How about totaling up what they have stolen and put it back. Then continue the old ways of taxing the motorists.

  5. Rural drivers will be screwed – royally. I live 55 miles from our county seat which also houses the nearest Kohl’s, Walmart, Home Depot and several other large stores. The nearest COSTCO and Target are 112 miles away. There are probably more than 2 million rural Californians in the same situation many retired or on limited incomes in Northern California and along the eastern border with Nevada. Of course, city dwellers with short drives or urban transportation will hardly be affected at all. Suggested motto for the CA legislature “Talk softly and carry a big d*ck”.

  6. John Wirts says

    Will the state of California REPEAL ALL GASOLINE, DIESEL, ETHANOL AND BIODIESEL TAXES,before instituting any “MILEAGE TAX”? Will the state of California GUARANTEE to use “MILEAGE TAXES” only for road construction or repair?? If not stick it where the sun don’t shine, lying, embezzling, greedy, money grabbing crooks!

    • @John Wirts
      That’s my problem with the pork-a-ticians. They use the money for EVERYTHING other than what it is collected for. If the liberal/progressives want bicycle paths and diamond lanes, let those who will benefit from such improvements pay for them.
      Use the taxes levied on gasoline for road construction/alterations/ and repairs ONLY on road construction/alterations/ and repairs. None of that money should be transferred to to the general fund for the pork-a-ticians to screw up.
      What we REALLY need is a voter revolt in Taxafornia and flush all of the established liberal/progressive politicians out with the bath water.

  7. The gas taxes would have been enough to pay for highways forever, if the State didn’t take the taxes for Highways and put it in the General Fund… Sacramento is nothing but a bunch of lying SOB’s.

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