By: Kelly Garman, Director of Government Affairs, ACEC California
The gas tax.
As the Director of Government Affairs for ACEC California, it’s something I’ve learned quite a bit about the last three years. Every transportation seminar and conference, every transportation-related bill moving through the legislature, and every time I’ve ever heard Malcolm Dougherty, Will Kempton, Senator Beall or Assembly Member Frazier speak in a public setting, the decline of the gas tax has been front and center.
And understandably so – there are more fuel-efficient cars on the roads these days, contributing to a decline in the gas tax, which is the revenue stream used to fix California’s roads. It’s a big deal. On behalf of ACEC California and as a longtime California resident, I believe this decline translates into a dire need to search for a long-term solution.
Like the roads and bridges we drive on, our state’s transportation financing policy is in a state of collapse.
In Washington, D.C., legislators went down to the wire to temporarily rescue the Highway Trust Fund
, the primary source for financing this country’s highway and mass transit improvements. The rescue is only a stop-gap measure; the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money again by next June. The Highway Trust Fund supports fifty percent of California’s Highway Capital Program.
#1: We’re driving less. During any recession, people tend to economize by driving less, and the Great Recession was no exception. But even a slight improvement in the economy since 2009 hasn’t resulted in greater use of the car, unlike in other recessions up to the mid 1990s. Less driving means less gas consumption means less gas tax revenue. What it doesn’t mean is less wear and tear because, increasingly, we’re using public transit and alternatives to gas-powered vehicles. Continue reading
A recent story in the Wall Street Journal shows why we need to look for new ways to finance highway transportation.
According to the latest American Community Survey released by the Census Bureau, carpooling is declining at an alarming rate. In 1980, carpooling was at an all time high of 20 percent; today it is 9.7 percent. And we aren’t leaving our cars behind and taking public transit, either; that declined slightly from 6 percent to 5 percent in 2012. We are telecommuting more, but again, only slightly. That rose to 4 percent (from two percent in 1980.)