California election has good news, bad news for truckers

| 10/9/2003

The big news in California may be the recall of Gov. Gray Davis and the victory of Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, but for truckers, the news today is about roads and cash.

The roads part is a state initiative, Proposition 53, which would have dedicated a percentage of the state’s general fund to infrastructure improvements, including road work, on a pay-as-you-go basis. The measure was voted on as part of the same ballot that contained the recall. It failed, 64 percent to 36 percent.

The cash part is Schwarzenegger’s promise that he would repeal the recent increase in the vehicle license fee – now a possibility since the actor-turned-politician has been elected.

The vehicle license fee dropped in 1998 after the General Assembly passed a law that cut the payments made by vehicle owners subject to California registration, according to a letter from Ken Reed, chief of the state’s IRP office. However, the same bill Reed wrote required the fee to return to its previous, higher level when California’s general fund did not have enough money to pay for the “offset,” or reduction.

California is in the midst of a significant budget crisis, and major cuts are expected in many programs. That means the 1998 law, requiring the fees to go up, has been triggered.

The fee is based on a percentage of a truck’s value. On a $100,000 rig, the fee last year would be $650. After Oct. 1, the fee on that hypothetical truck will rise to its former level, roughly $2,000. However, the older the truck, the lower its value and the lower the fee its owner would pay.

Cars are also paying significantly increased vehicle license fees under the law, leading to widespread dissatisfaction with the increase.

Media outlets reported that the new governor-elect promised while on the campaign trail that he would rescind the increase. However, that would require an act of the General Assembly, and would add billions to the state’s already multibillion-dollar deficit, according to budget analysts.