Sacramento is going to get into your business in a way that would make what George Orwell described in his book “1984” seem like kid’s stuff.
Sooner than later Sacramento is going to be keep tabs on how many miles you drive your car.
And the technology they will employ to do so could also track where you go and penalize you for where you drive.
If you think this is paranoia, guess again.
It will be the direct result of the California Air Resources Board’s decision to cast in cement the phase out of fossil fuel based new vehicle sales in the Golden State by 2035.
Phasing out gas-powered vehicles will cost California $8.8 billion a year in gas tax to pay for roads.
It gets worse. Gas is also subject to a 7.75 percent statewide sales tax.
Based on 13.8 billion gallons of gasoline sold in California in 2021 and a 7.75 percent statewide tax rate, sales at the gas pump generate $4.002 billion a year for the state. That includes $552 million that makes its way back to local government coffers in the jurisdiction where gas purchases are made.
That’s a $12 billion budget hole.
And with 12 percent of all new vehicles sold in California being electric and the first benchmark of 26 percent for EV sales as a percentage of all new vehicle sales set for 2025, that budget hole will be coming sooner than later.
It means the gas tax indexed for inflation in a few years won’t be able to keep enough money flowing to maintain existing roads and transit systems and build new ones.
Locally, it may mean the 10-year target period Caltrans has set to replace the northbound onramp and southbound off ramp that will be torn out on Austin Road early next year as the first phase of the upgrade of the 120 Bypass/Highway 99 interchange could be pushed farther out.
It is also true even with the DMV surcharge for electric vehicles now in place, that the owners of EVs are not paying their share for the wear and tear on California’s roadways.
There has always been an unjust subsidy of gas-powered vehicles for electric powered vehicles.
Sacramento politicians had no problem with it because it served their green goals.
But now that the state is locked in on the 100 percent new vehicle sales being cars and light duty trucks that don’t generate greenhouse gases, they are going to be more focused on another green goal — money.
And if Sacramento is true to form, they simply won’t replace one tax with another tax that generates the same amount of revenue. A new tax method will likely mean a higher net tax.
There is clearly one goal will likely be pursued. The more you drive, the more you are taxed. It really isn’t any different than what happens now with gas powered vehicles.
The big difference is the range of gas milage that vehicles get which means those that are fuel efficient pay less tax per mile.
And while EVs don’t pay any tax per mile now, the final solution will assure that they will be doing so in the near future.
Besides the fact whatever technology to tax driving that they come up with needs to be tamper proof, there is the real big issue of how the state will collect the money they are owed.
Will it be based on monthly readings and send you a bill?
Will they charge you when you pay your annual registration?
Either way most people don’t take too kindly to being hit with a big tax bill that they likely haven’t put money aside to pay.
How will the device that records miles driven be read by the state?
The most efficient way is being able to tap into the device remotely.
Think of the possibilities — drones, satellites, and things even George Orwell in his wildest imagination never thought possible.
The state could tax you at a commercial charger.
And the state probably could devise technology to assess charging using home chargers by somehow isolating from the rest of your power use on your PG&E bill.
But that is too risky.
Rest assured some will come up with solar power charger not connected to the grid like solar panels are at almost all homes. Even if it doesn’t 100 percent charge a car, it could pay for itself by reducing the tax bite to those that use them.
How does the state go after dead beats?
The answer is simple. Technology.
If hackers can cut power to a vehicle via Wi-Fi, you can bet your last dollar that the state can do so as well.
As for those that try to escape detection, rest assured the legislature will convey police powers onto revenue agents assigned to the DMV or perhaps simply have the CHP do random checks to make sure your onboard device is recording mileage, transmitting the data, and that you are paying your tax bill.
Then there is the real question — security.
Despite the cradle of high tech, the state has some of the most archaic computer systems around. One agency notorious for aging computers is the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Imagine how secure the state’s connection to your device will be.
Toss in the fact the state will probably have an option where they can siphon the taxes out of your bank account.
What could possibly go wrong with the State of California in charge?
Well, consider how well the state was fleeced with EDD payments during the depth of epidemic.
The state identified $9 billion in actual fraud and expects it to go as high as $20 billion when they are through checking things out.
Now imagine the state instead of doling money out siphons it in virtually undetected.
There is a good chance the replacement of the gas tax will usher in an era of Big Brother government that would make the henchmen of Stalin and Mao go green — with envy.
After all, there’s better living through agencies with three letter acronyms, whether it is the DMV or KGB as in Kalifornia Green Bureau.