California deploys some of the highest income and sales taxes in the nation, but the Golden State’s pillage people are worried that they might not be high enough. They now want to more than double registration fees on motor vehicles, more accurately known as the car tax. The car tax is based on .65 percent of the vehicle’s value, but a proposed measure for the 2014 ballot would add a one-percent surcharge to the value of a vehicle each year. By one estimate, the 1 percent surcharge would raise the license fee of a 2013 Honda Civic from $52 to $130.
This idea comes from Will Kempton, from 2004 to 2009 director of Caltrans, the massive state agency responsible for highway, bridge, and rail transportation planning, construction, and maintenance. Kempton is now executive director of Transportation California, a non-profit that is “tackling the job of developing significant new revenue streams that are needed to make sure our transportation system is up to meeting the needs of California’s economy and its people.” So it’s a pro-tax lobby that has enjoyed remarkable success.
Kempton is teaming with Jim Earp of the California Alliance for Jobs, which helped secure “more than $35 billion in state and local transportation funding measures.” So it too is a pro-tax lobby. Conveniently enough, Earp is also a member of the California Transportation Commission, “an active participant in the initiation and development of State and Federal legislation that seeks to secure financial stability for the State’s transportation needs.” So it’s an official state-funded tax lobby, and member Earp warns that “California is facing a transportation funding crisis.”
Kempton claims the state is running out of money for road maintenance and that some $20 billion in voter-approved borrowing “has already been spoken for.” He didn’t say who spoke for it, how it had been spent, or whether there had been any waste or fraud in the spending. Embattled taxpayers might recall the new span of the Bay Bridge, a state project overseen by Caltrans. The bridge cost $5 billion more than the original budget and construction lingered nine years past the initial completion date, with a total cost of $6.4 billion. Likewise, the Devil’s Slide tunnel on Highway 1 was supposed to cost $322 million and open in 2010. It opened in March 2013 costing $439 million.
These cases and many others confirm that waste is inherent in the system, but the pillage people always want more money. That is bad news for California workers heavily dependent on their cars. If politicians and state officials wanted to help those workers, they would limit the car tax in the style of Proposition 13, which limits property tax. But that remains unlikely in a virtual one-party state where government greed knows no bounds.