New tax bill takes aim at hybrid car drivers

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A controversial bill to replace California’s gas tax is gaining momentum across the state.
Senate Bill 1077 proposes for drivers to pay tax per each mile they drive instead of state taxes applied per gallon at the pump.

Last month, legislature approved to authorize a pilot program to explore the “road usage charge” as a possible replacement of the current state tax.

Energy policy analyst, Charles Langley argues that the proposed tax is just a way for oil companies to compensate for lost revenue in recent years.

According to the state, Californians currently consume 14.5 billion gallons of gas per year, compared to 16-billion gallons 10 years ago.

“There is a hole in revenue,” said Langley. “About 1.5 billion gallons of gas is not being purchased because people can’t afford to buy it or because some people have purchased electric cars and hybrids. This tax punishes hybrid users and electric car users and that’s the whole idea...oil companies love this tax.”

Senator Mark Desaulnier, a democrat from Concord defends the bill by saying that money would go to improve California highways from the burden of carrying 38-million drivers.

Some say it’s the wake-up call Californians need to become less dependent on their cars, to improve air quality and congestion while others believe the tax is unfare, especially towards those who own hybrid cars.

“They wanted people to buy hybrids for the environment and now that too many people are buying hybrids they are trying to capitalize on that,” said Dominique O’Niel, who argued that hybrid car drivers already do their part for the state. “For me its just another way to get money.”

According to Langley, the state would likely monitor mile usage through a GPS locator installed in the car.

“They have to come out and inspect our vehicles every year and assess a levy or tax when you renew your plates which is a huge problem because the government would monitor your driving," said Langley.

The bill calls for putting the pilot program in place by January 2017.

In the meantime, supporters plan to address the issues regarding privacy and the monitoring system.

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