Skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon
Visit the Midday Edition homepage

California Committee Explores Road Usage Charge In Place Of Gas Tax

February 17, 2015 1:07 p.m.

California Plans To Move Away From Gas Tax To 'Road Usage Charge'

GUESTS:

Jim Madaffer, chair, California Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee. He is also a member of the California Transportation Commission and is a former San Diego City Council member.

Joe Rose, transportation columnist and writer, The Oregonian and Oregon Live

Related Story: California Committee Explores Road Usage Charge In Place Of Gas Tax

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

EVEN GOOD IDEAS CAN HAVE UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES. FOR EXAMPLE, CALIFORNIA'S EFFORTS TO REDUCE GREENHOUSE GASES. THE STATES MANDATED CARS HAVE HIGH FUEL EFFICIENCY HAS ENCOURAGE DRIVERS TO BUY HYBRID AND ELECTRIC VEHICLE ALL IN AN EFFORT TO REDUCE GAS CONSUMPTION. IT HAS BEEN WORKING SO WELL THAT WE NOW HAVE TO FIND A NEW WAY TO FINANCE ROAD MAINTENANCE. REVENUE FROM THE GAS TAX THAT IS USED TO MAINTAIN OUR ROADS IS STRIKING. THIS STRANGE SET OF EVENTS HAS LAWMAKERS TRYING TO DEVISE GAP MEASURES TO RAISE MONEY FOR ROAD REPAIRS WHILE A STATE ADVISORY COMMITTEE WORKS ON COMING UP WITH A LONG-TERM SOLUTION. JOINING ME TO TALK ABOUT NEW WAYS TO PAY FOR ROAD MAINTENANCE IS JIM THE CHAIR OF THE CALIFORNIA ROAD CHARGE TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE AND A MEMBER OF THE CALIFORNIA TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION. ALSO A FORMER SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL.
HOW MUCH AS THE GAS TAX FALLEN?
YOU LOOK AT THE FACT THAT IT WAS LAST RAISED IN 1993 TO 19 $.93-$.18 A GALLON. TODAY, IF YOU FACTOR IN INFLATION AND ALL OF THE GOOD MILEAGE THAT YOU ARE ALLUDING TO, IT IS NOW ONLY WORTH SEVEN POINTS OF -- 7.5 CENTS PER GALLON. WE'RE GOING BACKWARD AND OBVIOUSLY THINGS COST MORE TODAY. IT HAS BEEN A NO-WIN SITUATION FOR A LONG TIME.
WHAT HAS THAT MEANT FOR THE CONDITION OF CALIFORNIA'S ROADS AND TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE.
BRIDGES ARE DETERIORATING. OUR INFRASTRUCTURE WAS BUILT IN THE 40s, 50s AND 60s. THERE HAS NOT BEEN THE DOLLAR PUT INTO THE SYSTEM TO MAINTAIN IT LIKE THERE SHOULD BE. IT'S GOING BACKWARD. IT'S GETTING WORSE AS EACH YEAR PASSES.
THIS COULD NOT BE FIXED COULD IT BY MERELY INCREASING THE GAS TAX?
CERTAINLY, POLITICIANS IN WASHINGTON DC OR SACRAMENTO HAVE THAT AS AN OPTION. BUT IT'S PROBABLY ONE OF THE MOST UNPOPULAR THINGS TO DO. EVEN WITH GAS A DOLLAR 50 LESS THAN WHAT IT WAS SIX MONTHS AGO. THAT THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING ELSE MAINLY BECAUSE THE GAS TAXES ARE ARCHAIC. AS YOU ARE ALLUDING TO WHEN CARS WERE GETTING 10 TO 50 MILES PER GALLON AND EVERYTHING WAS THE SAME BUT FOR THE 2025 STANDARDS, TAKING IT TO 54.5 MILES TO THE GALLON, IT'S OBVIOUS YOU WILL HAVE LESS GAS USED AND THINGS WILL COST MORE TO MAINTAIN.
THE PREMISE OF THE COMMITTEE THAT YOU'RE ON, THE TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE THAT THE GOVERNOR SET UP IN THE PREMISE IS THAT THE GAS TAX IS BROKEN AND WE HAVE TO FIND ANOTHER WAY TO FIND ENOUGH MONEY TO TAKE FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF OUR ROADWAYS.
THAT IS A GOOD WAY TO PUT IT. SENATE BILL 1027 WHICH WAS SIGNED BY DOVE IN OR BROWN DOES JUST THAT. IT ESTABLISHES A TECHNICAL COMMITTEE TO LOOK AT THE PILOTING OF A POSSIBLE ROAD CHARGE MECHANISM WHERE INSTEAD OF PAYING FOR THE AMOUNT OF GALLONS THEY PURCHASE, THEY PAY INSTEAD FOR THE NUMBER OF MILES THEY DRIVE.
HOW MUCH DEFERRED MAINTENANCE IS THERE NOW?
THE NUMBER IS INTO THE BILLIONS. THIS IS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT BOTH ASSEMBLY SPEAKER TONI ATKINS RECOGNIZED AND SHE RECENTLY INTRODUCE SOMETHING CALLED STOPGAP FINANCING. BECAUSE IT HAS GOTTEN SO CRITICAL, THEY NEED TO FIGURE OUT SOME WAY OR ANYTHING TO DO NOW WHILE WE STUDY THIS METHOD OF LOOKING AT CHARGING TO USE AND MAINTAIN OUR ROADS IN LIEU OF THE GAS WE'RE FINE.
IN TERMS OF THAT STOPGAP MEASURE, YOU SAY ASSEMBLYMAN ATKINS HAS INTRODUCED THAT IDEA TO CHARGE DRIVERS AN EXTRA ONE DOLLAR A WEEK. HOW WOULD THAT WORK LIKE
AS I SEE IT, IT'S BRIDGE FINANCING. BASICALLY TO COVER THE GAP. BECAUSE THINGS ARE GOING BACKWARD SO RAPIDLY, SPEAKER ATKINS AND LEADERS IN SACRAMENTO ALONG WITH THE GOVERNMENT HAVE SAID WE HAVE TO FIND A REPLACEMENT. IT'S A VERY SERIOUS SITUATION. IT'S EASY TO CALCULATE THAT THE GAS TAX IS NOT WORKING ANYMORE. HER PROPOSAL AS I UNDERSTAND IT IS TO DO JUST THAT. ABOUT $50 A YEAR ON EVERY VEHICLE REGISTRATION TO EFFECTIVELY LAST FOR ABOUT FIVE YEARS. WE'RE HOPING THAT THIS TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE WILL GET OUT INTO THE PUBLIC THROUGH VOLUNTEERS TO ACTUALLY SEE WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR THEM. IT COULD BE TELEMATICS ONBOARD VEHICLES, IT COULD BE USING TRACKING PAPER AND PENS, DEVICES PLUGGED INTO THE MAINTENANCE PORT ON THE VEHICLE. NOTHING WILL BE MANDATORY BUT WE NEED TO SEE WHAT WORKS BEST FOR CALIFORNIA. CALIFORNIA IS UNIQUE. EVEN THOUGH OREGON WASHINGTON AND MINNESOTA HAVE TRIED THIS AND ARE IMPLEMENTING THIS. WE ARE DIFFERENT AND WE WANT TO MAKE SURE WE DO THINGS FOR OUR PEOPLE THAT WORK.
GOING BACK TO THAT STOPGAP MEASURE, $2 BILLION. IT WOULD RAISE ABOUT $2 BILLION OVER FIVE YEARS. IS THAT THE ESTIMATE?
10 BILLION.
WOULD THAT BE ENOUGH?
NO. THAT IS FAR FROM THE NUMBER THAT IS NECESSARY. THAT IS JUST TO COVER SOME OF THE SHORTFALLS.
ONE OF THE THINGS THE PUBLIC SHOULD RECOGNIZE IS THAT WHEN THE GAS TAX WAS LAST RAISED 20 YEARS AGO, THINGS WERE A LOT EASIER BACK THEN. TODAY, TO IMPROVE A BRIDGE OR FIX A ROAD THERE ARE NEW ENVIRONMENTAL REQUIREMENTS. LOTS OF ADDITIONAL PLAYERS AND ISSUES AND IT COST A LOT OF MONEY. THESE WERE NOT CONTEMPLATED 20 YEARS AGO. AS I ALLUDED, THE AMOUNT OF MONEY HAS ACTUALLY GONE DOWN FROM $.18 TO 7 1/2.
BEFORE WE GET INTO WHAT YOU GUYS MIGHT BE THINKING ABOUT DOING IN TERMS OF MAKING DISCHARGE, I WANT TO ROLL BACK A LITTLE BIT AND EXPLORE ABOUT WHAT A ROAD USE CHARGE IS. I THINK THAT IS A NEW CONCEPT TO A LOT OF PEOPLE. WE KNOW WHAT A GAS TAX THIS. SO ROAD USAGE CHARGE WOULD ACTUALLY CHARGE PEOPLE PER MILE THAT THEY DRIVE?
YES. IS A CONCEPT FOR DRIVERS PAY FOR MAINTENANCE AND UPKEEP OF THE STATE ROAD NETWORK FOR THE MILES THAT THEY DRIVE. IT'S PROBABLY ONE OF THE MOST EQUITABLE WAYS TO ACTUALLY PAY AND USE THE ROADS. DRIVE 10 MILES, YOU PAY FOR 10 MILES.
AS YOU SAID, JIM, CALIFORNIA IS NOT THE ONLY STATE THAT IS CRUMBLING -- DEALING WITH CRUMBLING HIGHWAYS. OREGON HAS STARTED A PILOT PROGRAM TO USE TECHNOLOGY TO DETERMINE ROAD USE AND DETERMINE THE CHARGE. ON THE LINE IS JOSEPH. IS A TRANSPORTATION COLUMNISTS. WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.
THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
HOW DOES THE OREGON PILOT PROGRAM WORK?
IT HAS A NAME NOW. IT'S CALLED OR AGO -- OREGO. WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW IS WE HAVE JUST SET UP A SITE FOR OR AGO THAT ALLOWS -- WE ARE LOOKING FOR 5000 VOLUNTEERS. THIS PROGRAM WAS PUT IN PLACE BY THE LEGISLATURE TWO YEARS AGO. IT WILL START UP ON JULY 1. ESSENTIALLY, IT WILL WORK ALMOST EXACTLY AS WHAT CALIFORNIA IS DOING WHERE YOU CAN USE A GPS DEVICE AND PLUG IT INTO YOUR CAR. THERE WILL BE AN APP FOR YOUR iPHONE OR ANDROID. THE WILL ALSO BE A PHYSICAL LOG LIKE A BOOK THAT WE YOU WILL KEEP YOUR MILEAGE AND. IT WILL CHARGE YOU 18 18.4 CENTS A GALLON. ORGANS IS $.30 A GALLON. WHAT WILL HAPPEN IS WHEN YOU LOG THE MILES THAT YOU HAVE DRIVEN OR THE GPS LOGS HOW MANY MILES YOU HAVE DRIVEN OR THE APP. IT'S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT ODOT CAME UP WITH A PRIVATE VENDOR TO HANDLE THE ACCOUNTING AND MANAGED THE ROAD TAX. THEY WILL SIT DOWN AND INVOICE -- SEND OUT A REBATE ONCE YOU HAVE LOGGED YOUR MILES GIVING YOU A REBATE ON THE GAS TAX YOU HAVE PAID.
THAT IS ONLY FOR THE PILOT PROGRAM RIGHT? BECAUSE THOSE PEOPLE WILL BE PAYING TWICE CONCEIVABLY. AT HOW MUCH PER MILE?
WHAT YOU DO IS YOU FIGURE OUT HOW MANY MILES PER MONTH YOU DRIVE AND DIVIDE THAT BY YOUR VEHICLE'S MILES PER GALLON AND MULTIPLY UP BY .3. WE PUT A CALCULATOR ON MY BLOG SO THAT PEOPLE CAN FIGURE IT OUT. TO FIGURE OUT YOUR MILEAGE TAX, YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW MANY MILES PER MONTH AND MULTIPLY IT BY .015. IT GETS CONVOLUTED. THE OTHER THING IS IF YOU'RE GETTING A REBATE CHECK, THE QUESTION IS ARE YOU GIVING THE GOVERNMENT WHAT ESSENTIALLY IS AN INTEREST-FREE LOAN FOR ROADS CONSTRUCTION.
HOW LONG HAS OREGON BEEN STUDYING THIS WITH
WELL OVER 15 YEARS. IT LOOKS LIKE WE WILL BE THE FIRST TO GET IT GOING WITH A NICE CRITICAL MASS OF ABOUT 5000 ROAD USERS. WHAT I HAVE HEARD, THE SITE WENT UP TO PUT YOUR NAME IN -- ON THIS LIST OF PEOPLE WHO WILL BE VOLUNTEERING. THEY HAVE ALREADY GOTTEN ABOUT 2000 PEOPLE SIGNED UP IS WHAT I HEARD.
IS THERE A TARGET DATE IN OREGON TO GET THIS ROAD USAGE FEE UP AND RUNNING? NOT JUST THE PILOT PROGRAM BUT ACTUALLY IMPLEMENT IT WITH
THAT IS THE THING ABOUT APOLLO PROGRAM, IT GIVES THE STATE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE WHAT IS WORKING AND NOT WORKING. YOU ALSO HAVE CONSTANTLY EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY OF AUTOMOBILES AND SMART PHONE OUT THAT WILL PLAY INTO THIS. THEY WANT TO SEE WHAT WORKS BEST. WHAT IS THE MOST POPULAR WITH DRIVERS. AND THEN, IMPLEMENT IT WITHIN HOPEFULLY THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.
THANK YOU SO MUCH, JOE, FOR SPEAKING WITH US.
JOSEPH ROSE IS TRANSPORTATION COMMUNIST AND WRITER FOR THE OREGO.
YOU HEARD ABOUT OREGO JIM.
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT IT.
WE'RE TRYING TO MAKE SOMETHING WE BELIEVE THE REST OF THE COUPLING -- COUNTRY WILL END UP EMULATING.
WHAT YOU THINK IS UNIQUE?
THERE ARE A LOT OF VARIABLES IN CALIFORNIA. FIRST OF ALL THE BORDERS. WE HAVE A LOT OF FARM AND RURAL AREAS. WE HAVE A LOT OF AREAS THAT ARE PRIVATE ROADS. AND THAT IN THE TECHNOLOGY-BASED SOLUTION THAT MIGHT BE ONE THAT JUST LOGS MILEAGE DRIVEN ON PUBLIC ROADS. IF YOU'RE DRIVING ON A PRIVATE ROAD, YOU'RE NOT CHARGED. IS MORE MODERN CARS, THAT DATA COULD BE TRENDS -- TRANSPORTED AUTOMATICALLY. WE ARE VERY SENSITIVE TO PRIVACY ISSUES. THAT IS A KEY PIECE OF THE LEGISLATION THAT WE CANNOT AND DO NOT WANT TO INVADE PRIVACY ISSUES. WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO DO IS REPLACE THE GAS TAX WITH A MORE EQUITABLE FUNDING SOURCE.
IT SOUND -- IT SOUNDS AS THOUGH THE IDEA GOES HAND-IN-HAND WITH THE INCREASE IN TECHNOLOGY. HOW TECHNOLOGY IS ADVANCING IN CARS AND IN SMART PHONES?
ABSOLUTELY. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I AM DOING AS PART OF THIS IS TO ACTUALLY INTRODUCE SOME OF THE ASPECTS OF VEHICLE AUTOMATION. AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES -- THE TIPPING POINT IS 2026. THAT IS ONLY 11 YEARS FROM NOW. THAT MEANS THAT THERE WILL BE MORE AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES ON THE ROAD IN THE 11 YEARS THEN NOT. IT'S JUST A REALITY OF WHERE WE ARE GOING. THE FACT THAT HOOVER WILL BE COMING TO YOU WITHOUT A DRIVER. THAT IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION. PEOPLE MAY BE WORRIED ABOUT IT BUT THAT IS WHERE WE ARE MOVING. MUCH FASTER THAN GOVERNMENT CAN KEEP UP.
WE ARE HEARING APPLE COMING OUT WITH AN ELECTRIC CAR. WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO USE THE TELEMATICS FROM THESE VEHICLES. ANOTHER EXAMPLE -- AIR RESOURCES BOARD LOOKING AT POSSIBLE TELEMATICS ON VEHICLES TO WHERE WE NO LONGER NEED TO GET A SMALL CHECK. AS LONG AS THE VEHICLE IS IN RANGE, NO PROBLEM. THESE ARE THINGS WE COULD TIE IN WITH OUR MILEAGE-BASED REPORTING EFFORT TO MAKE IT EASY FOR THE PUBLIC UNLIKE THIS MULTIPLIER AND EVERYTHING.
INSTEAD OF SOMEONE HAVING THE NIGHTMARE OF HAVING TO KEEP A LOG AND TO ALL OF THIS MATHEMATICS, IT'S BASICALLY, THE CAR WILL DO THE WORK FOR YOU. IT IS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT THIS ADVISORY COMMITTEE CAME UP WITH.
THAT IS MY GOAL TO MAKE IT AS EASY AS POSSIBLE.
THE YOU THINK THE ROAD USAGE CHARGE WHEN IT'S WORKED OUT, WHEN YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SUBMIT, YOU HAVE TO GO BEFORE VOTERS FOR APPROVAL?
THAT IS A GOOD QUESTION. I DON'T KNOW YET. IT COULD END UP BEING SOMETHING THE LEGISLATURE IMPLEMENTS. I THINK IF IT'S REPLACING AN EXISTING TAX, THEN, I THINK IT WILL BE OKAY AND JUST BE A LEGISLATIVE ACTION. IF IT IS A NEW TAX, I BELIEVE IT WILL HAVE TO BE [ INDISCERNIBLE ].
THIS MAY BE A HARD SELL. PEOPLE HAVE KIND OF BEEN DOING THE RIGHT THING. THEY HAVE BEEN USING LESS GAS AND NOW THEY HAVE TO PAY A ROAD CHARGE.
SIMPLE. I HAVE BEEN DRIVING AN ELECTRIC CAR FOR ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF NOW AND I DON'T PAY ANYTHING TO USE THE ROADS. IS THAT FAIR?
I DON'T THINK IT'S FAIR. 55 MILES PER GALLON WILL BE THE REQUIREMENT I 2025. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS RECOGNIZE THAT WE'RE NOT INVESTING IN OUR ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE IN THIS RUNS OUR GOODS, ECONOMY, HOW WE GET TO SCHOOL, HOW WE GET AROUND. IF YOU DON'T DRIVE AND YOU USE TRANSIT, YOU STILL NEED THOSE ROADS. THE CURRENT GAS TAX HAS BEEN PAYING FOR THOSE THINGS BUT IT'S GETTING SMALLER AND SMALLER EVERY YEAR.
WHEN IS CALIFORNIA SUPPOSED TO BEGIN THIS PILOT PROGRAM?
SCHEDULE HAS THIS TASK FORCE WORKING TOWARD 2015 AND THEN 2016 PROBABLY FOR 6 TO 18 MONTHS THEY WILL FIGURE OUT VENDORS. LIKE OREGON, IT WILL BE RUN PRIVATELY. WE NEED TO FIGURE OUT A WAY THAT IT CAN BE DONE WITH AREAS PRIVACY INVOLVED. THAT WILL PROBABLY IT IS FIVE -- PILOT IN CALIFORNIA AND WILL PROBABLY GO FOR A YEAR OR YEAR AND A HALF. IT WILL PROBABLY END UP BEING A MUCH MORE COMPRESSED SCHEDULE. WE NEED TO COME UP WITH A SOLUTION QUICKER THAN WHAT THE LEGISLATION CONTEMPLATIVES.
I HAVE BEEN SPEAKING WITH JIM McDOWELL FOR. HE IS CHAIR FOR THE TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
THANK YOU.