Letters to the Editor: How a revolt against the ‘car tax’ in 2003 led to higher gas prices today

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs an executive order lowering the state vehicle license fee shortly after being sworn into office in 2003.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Columnist David Lazarus overlooks the sharp reduction in the state vehicle license fee (VLF) in 2003 that led to this current crisis in gasoline prices. This is an issue that helped recall Gov. Gray Davis that year, and it set the stage for the higher taxes we pay now. The VLF provides billions to support our state’s infrastructure. (“California’s gas tax is going up again. You should be pleased,” June 25)

Southern California motorists already endure outrageous prices at the pump compared to other regions in the country because of the “summer blend” and the determination of oil refineries in the state to ship refined gasoline abroad, reducing supply here to sustain higher fuel prices.

Without the revenues of the VLF, the state has had limited resources to support its roads and highways. As such, policymakers have limited choices to support our infrastructure but to hurt consumers with higher gasoline taxes.


Christian B. Teeter, Los Angeles


To the editor: The maintenance of highways and bridges is horribly expensive, and there is no politically easy way to pay for them. Florida has a low gas tax, but it also has toll roads everywhere, and people often pay more than $100 a month just in tolls.

Lazarus mentions “mileage fees” as a possible substitute for the gas tax, which would require vehicles to be equipped with tracking devices. However, since gas guzzlers use more fuel per mile, the gas tax already rewards more fuel-efficient cars, and without the need for tracking devices.

Of all the various ways to fund good roads and safe bridges, the gas tax makes the most sense.

Howard Morris, Rancho Cucamonga