Reaching too far, again | Tim Talk | Tim Hunt | |

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By Tim Hunt

Reaching too far, again

Uploaded: Dec 10, 2013

As expected, the Alameda County Transportation Commission is bringing back a measure to double the county's half cent sales tax to a penny.

The measure narrowly failed in 2012, winning in every city but Pleasanton. One key objection to the measure was there was no sunset. The two prior tax measures had sunsets—the first at 15 years and the second at 20 years.

This time around, commissioners are selling a 30-year package that is designed to raise $7.8 billion for road, freeway and transit improvements and operations. The commission formally approved the measure this month and then sent it to city councils for their concurrence.

Just like doubling the tax, the 30-year period again is a stretch—that's used to be an entire working career for people.

There's no question that the county has benefitted from projects completed with the tax revenues, but it is a regressive tax that has no direct connection to transportation. The type of user fee—increasing vehicle registration fees that Sacramento politicians are floating—would be a better approach.

It would tap the electric vehicles that Democrat politicians and environmentalists are pushing that pay nothing in fuel taxes.

Did you notice where the highest concentration of electric Tesla cars is located—Atherton, one of the Bay Area's priciest communities. Reports put registration at 15 percent of vehicles in the Atherton zip code. Three other Silicon Valley affluent communities (Los Altos Hills, Los Altos and Portola Valley) have the next highest market share, according to a report by The Tesla is the top selling luxury car in eight of the country's 25 wealthiest zip codes. I certainly see a number of them driving around Pleasanton.

The base price for a Tesla S sedan starts at $70,000 and can easily exceed $100,000 for a top model with a range of about 260 miles. Other models have a range without recharging the batteries of about 140 miles.

That's before the $7,500 federal tax credit (credit, not deduction, which means directly lowering the tax bill). Toss in a $2,500 rebate from the state, access to the High-occupancy-vehicle lanes and it's easy to see why Teslas have been selling very well in affluent communities. And, of course, because they run on batteries, owners do not pay any gasoline or sales taxes.

So they are using the roads for free with other motorists paying the freight.

It is a classic case of smart people (Telsa CEO Elon Musk as well as the buyers) taking full advantage of federal and state laws that presumably were not written to subsidize wealthy buyers.