Funding Repairs of Roads & Bridges

This is written to California's Governor , Jerry Brown, in reponse to his proposal for a car tax (something like $150 per car) to fund much needed repairs to roads and bridges in California. I propose some alternatives which I think would be just as effective, more fair , and which provide additional benefits in terms of reducing fossil fuel use.

(note : although I keep saying "roads and bridges" our road transport system also includes some tunnels and other infrastructure that needs to be maintained.) These proposals would be equally appropriate in other states which need to repair roads and bridges, or similar ideas could be implemented on a national level.

Proposals for funding repairs of roads and bridges

by Pam Green, © 2015

Dear Governor Brown,

I voted for you the first time you were elected. You were ahead of your times then on some issues, especially those related to energy, ecology.

Now I hear you want to raise funds for repairing roads and bridges. Yes, that's over-due, greatly needed. But a uniform per car car tax is probably not the best or fairest way to do that. (and might well get you re-called or lynched). So I want to suggest some better ways.

If it's going to be a tax on cars, how about taxing based on gross vehicle weight. That would be fair because the heavier the vehicle the more damage it does to the roads and bridges, and heavier vehicles tend to be less fuel efficient.

Or how about taxing based on fuel inefficiency, ie heavy tax on low mpg cars (including vans, trucks, SUVs), light or no tax on the most efficient cars. Ie the lower the fuel efficiency , the higher the tax. Make the inefficiency penalties even higher on new cars (cars sold after the effective date of the legislation) that don't meet our state mpg standards , standards that really should be raised. Older inefficient cars would be penalized but not as heavily as new ones. An inefficiency tax would have the benefit of discouraging purchase and continued ownership of fuel-inefficient cars. Give an exemption to those few people who are paralyzed and using motorized wheelchairs and thus need a van that has a lift ramp. Exemption for emergency vehicles of course.

Alternatively have a $1 per gallon fuel tax on gas and diesel .. A fuel tax is fair because those who drive the most are most in need of good roads and are doing the most damage to the roads. Now, late 2015, when gas prices are less high than in recent years, about $1 per gallon lower than peak prices, is an ideal time to put in a gas tax of the type I describe. Restoring fuel costs to that higher level will restore people's desire to drive fuel efficient vehicles rather than guzzlers and will encourage them to drive fewer miles. The use of smaller more efficient vehicles and driving fewer miles will lessen future damage to roads.

Whichever the source of the "roads and bridges tax", I strongly urge that we devote one half of that to roads and bridges and one half to mass transportation aka public transportation . The part for mass transit could be used to create or expand public systems where they are lacking, to expand hours of operation and /or subsidize fares on systems that already exist. The net effect of getting people to use public transit instead of private cars would lessen the damage to roads and bridges.

Of course one could have both a weight or mpg based car tax and a fuel tax at the same time.

For bridges, it would also be possible to make all those in need of repair into toll bridges and raise tolls on those already toll bridges. With most drivers already using EZ Pass, the toll booths don't need human toll takers. Bridge tolls to fund bridge maintenance would be fair in that those who use the bridge pay for them.

Whatever you do, people won't like it and you probably won't get re-elected to a 5th term. but that's probably OK with you. Twenty or thirty years from now it will be recognized that you did something wise and necessary, "ahead of your time" again..

The alternative is to let roads and bridges continue to deteriorate and figure that they won't be needed at all after the gas supply runs out. I'm only kidding about that scenario. Horses and bicycles would still need some primitive roads and bridges. (But also note that a horse and bicycle economy and ecology could only support a much much smaller human population.)

your constituent, Pam Green


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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 10/01/2015 revised 10/01/2015
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