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California getting punitive on driving

California has passed a law that assesses a tax based on VMT (vehicle miles traveled) and incorporate that tax into housing costs. The idea is to push more population density, and encourage alternative means of transportation (which is not really available in much of California). It has been touted as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Critics contend that raising housing costs is a bad idea in a state where high housing costs drives economic inequality, and is certainly a factor in homelessness, as well as some, well, unique problems.

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Opponents say that middle class and poor people tend to have to drive farther for work, and their communities will be disproportionately impacted. They say that increasing housing costs is an impediment to poor and middle class people building wealth.  Here in the San Joaquin Valley, as well as in other rural areas, this is a significant reality. Compared to the rest of the country this region is expensive, but it remains one of the few parts of California considered remotely affordable. I cannot imagine what my house would cost in the Bay Area or SoCal. I got it at the bottom of the market in the recession, but given recent sales in the neighborhood, it is probably worth $400,000-$500,000. I imagine it would be 2-3 times that down south or up north. My childhood home in the LA suburbs that my parents purchased for $50,000 in 1972 sold about a year ago for $3.5 million. This plan presents a potentially destructive impact on the rural part of the state, where people have to drive. So our local counties are pushing back.

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More recently, questions have begun to be asked about how good of an idea this law really is. As it becomes increasingly evident that population density has been a significant driver in the COVID-19 pandemic, do we really want to push for more population density?

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This is a shining example of the problem with a one party system, as we have in California. Even if you hate the opposition, meaningful opposition tends to push more thoughtful policy. We will see how this story ends.

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