With 28 million vehicles on the road, California can rightfully call itself the unofficial capital of American car culture. The Legislature, though, just passed a bill offering a $1,000 tax break to households that don’t have any. In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change, both houses of the Legislature overwhelmingly passed SB 457 on Wednesday.
It was one of several climate bills lawmakers sent Gov. Gavin Newsom on the last day of the legislative session. The bill’s author, Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Burbank, called it an attempt to get motorists to trade their cars for buses and other forms of transit. “We can invest in the future by providing financial incentives for Californians to transition from vehicles to more sustainable options,” he said in a prepared statement. California already offers rebates of as much as $7,000 for purchases of electric vehicles of plug-in hybrids. Portantino’s bill takes the fight against tailpipe carbon emissions a step further, with a tax credit for moderate and low-income households “with zero registered vehicles,” according to the legislation’s text.
“Cars impose a pretty big societal cost that we all experience,” said Marc Vukcevich of Streets For All, a Los Angeles-based advocacy group that pushed for SB 457. The legislation creates a reward for those who “are not causing air pollution,” he said. “They’re not causing traffic violence. They’re not causing congestion.” Transportation accounts for 41% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, more than any other sector of society, according to the California Air Resources Board.
The original version of SB 457 would have made any taxpayer eligible, regardless of income. It was rewritten to cap eligibility at households making no more than $60,000 a year in adjusted gross income. The bill will prove costly to taxpayers if Newsom signs it.
An Assembly floor analysis says the tax break could cost the state $900 million a year. The legislation runs through the 2028 tax year. The bill wasn’t among the package of legislation promoted heavily by Newsom in the waning days of the session, and his office wouldn’t comment on whether he plans to sign SB 457.