Sacto Dan was wrong. But Senator Dave Cox was out of line.

Normally, I am not one to get in the mix of someone else’s Kool-Aide. But I could not let this unwarranted personal attack on my good friend and fellow Western Alliance member go without comment.

In his post Republican State Senator Cox Backs Mileage Tax Sacto Dan incorrectly states that the Senator is in support of an effort to impliment a new tax on Californians based on the number of miles they drive each year. He uses as the basis for his assertion the following article published inSenator Cox’s November monthly newsletter.

Financing Transportation Infrastructure

For several years now, experts in transportation finance have been talking about the antiquated way we finance transportation infrastructure, both roads and transit. Basically the problem is that we rely on a combination of sales and gasoline taxes to provide funds, but the taxes do not keep up with inflation — especially in the cost of construction of transportation facilities — or with the increased fuel efficiency of cars. It also makes no sense if we decide that we want to reduce the use of fossil fuels such as gasoline to improve our air quality.

I recently read an interview with Professor Martin Wachs of U.C Berkeley, a respected expert on transportation issues. He is the former Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. Professor Wachs points out that in order to increase transportation funds, we currently are in the position of advocating for increased sales of gasoline. He advocates a switch to a more direct user fee based on the number of vehicle miles driven by each vehicle registered in the state. There are technologies being tested which would report a vehicle’s miles driven and collect a fee while not maintaining a record of overall usage. This would satisfy privacy concerns. He also advocates the use of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, which would create additional highway lanes and charge for their usage based on the time of day.

The leaders in the Legislature are talking about ways to increase funds for our state’s infrastructure needs. There will be large bond proposals introduced in the Legislature early next year.

I am interested in your reaction to these types of proposals. Should we sell more bonds? Should we raise gas or sales taxes? Or should we consider more innovative approaches? Send me your thoughts on the different methods of financing this critical need.

Now in the Senator’s defense, nowhere in the article does it state that he is in support of such a tax. However, it is important to note that the article offers only one side of the argument on this issue. If the Senator was truly seeking the opinion of his constitutents on this matter, shouldn’t he have presented a more balanced view?

What I appreciate about Sacto Dan’s blog is that he is not a political insider or profesional public policy commentator. He is your average Joe, working stiff who shares his views from that very same perspective. And I am willing to bet that if what Dan got from this article is that Dave Cox was in support of the Mileage Tax, he is not alone.

After reading this article, I can see how Dan would summize that the Senator would be insupport of the Mileage Tax. But it was wrong to state that the Senator was in favor of such a tax without facts to back it up. Perhaps a better title for the post would have been “Does Republican State Senator Cox Back a Mileage Tax?”

Keeping in mind that Senator Dave Cox has a fairly well established record as taxpayer advocate, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this question. But the obvious lack of divergent viewpoints in the article is enough to warrant asking the question. And Dan should have done just that… asked the question instead of stating an assumption.
But to personally attack Sacto Dan the way the Senator did on the Eric Houge show was petty and beneath him. He could have offered clarification without the insults. Just as Dan should have given the Senator the benefit of the doubt, I believe that the Senator should have offered the same deference Sacto Dan corrected his error and as President of the Western Alliance, I feel it is my place to state for the record that I believe it is time for the Senator to do the same by publically appoligizing for his persnal attack on a faithful Republican who made an honest mistake.

Craig DeLuz

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