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California Senate introduces bill to test taxing drivers by the mile

California Senate to consider taxing drivers by the mile.
California Senate to consider taxing drivers by the mile.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Democrats apparently aren't sure if drivers will like being taxed for every mile they drive. CBS Los Angeles reported Monday that Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, introduced a bill in the state Senate to test the idea on a voluntary basis.

The reason, CBS explained, is that the current gas tax simply isn't providing the money it once did due to people driving more fuel efficient vehicles. According to the California Taxpayer's Association, drivers in the state pay the second highest gas tax in the country. The combined local, state and federal gasoline taxes total 67.79 cents per gallon, including a 3.5-cents-per-gallon decrease approved in February, the group says. That decrease goes into effect in July 2014.

“We want to do as Washington and Oregon have done in a much bigger state with much longer commutes…to make sure that we find out whether it would work, whether the public would like it or not,” said DeSaulnier.

No one knows how much the state will charge, CBS added, noting that Oregon charges volunteers 1.5 cents per mile. NBC said the tax could be as high as five cents per mile. A 45-mile per day commute to and from work, for example, could cost drivers just under $100 per month. One person the network spoke to said he drives 200 miles every day to get to his landscaping jobs in the San Francisco Bay area. NBC said the fee could raise over $100 billion for roads in some parts of the state.

“All of those things would be determined. We would let the agency determine that because this would be a voluntary program,” DeSaulnier added.

Drivers in the state weren't happy with the proposal.

“I think they're probably going to make more people move and leave the state," David Jones told NBC.

“I bought a hybrid…one, because of my drive. I’m very opposed. I drive to Brentwood every day from Burbank, and I am already paying more than I should be,” southern California motorist Carmen Smith told CBS.

“So if we go on vacation and I drive up to Mammoth, that’s 600 miles," added Kim Robinson. "We’re being taxed on vacations?”

State transportation agencies support the tax, NBC said, but the Association of California Car Clubs opposes it. The association called it a fee that "can be raised anytime with a majority vote in the legislature and not with a 2/3’s vote as with a tax."

If the bill passes into law, transportation officials would have to report their findings by mid-2017. Lawmakers would then have to approve a separate measure before applying the tax statewide.

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