Given the fact that California's domestic commerce far surpasses international trade in terms of value ($1.3 trillion vs. $300 billion, respectively) we should realistically assess the infrastructure impacts of the state's domestic intrastate trucking industry. Investment in new toll lanes some that might even be dedicated to trucking should be seriously considered as a possible funding mechanism for infrastructure improvements.

Tolls and other direct charges are a funding mechanism that connect the user directly with a service or project. True user fees are easy to track: You use it, you pay for it. True "user fees" do not discriminate based on point of origin, or mode of transportation. Containers don't deliver themselves. Without a vessel, truck or ship to do it, intermodal freight simply doesn't move.

Why should a container be taxed if it arrives in California via ship, but not taxed if it comes on a truck from Nevada? And how might a container be treated if it arrives by land from Mexico? How does the state propose to contend with the International Conventions on Containers or the U.S. Constitution? None of these questions has been answered satisfactorily by the container tax advocates.

If we are to finally stop the ebb and flow of talk and actually get to the task of funding California's infrastructure needs, we should be honest about how we are paying for these needed projects. If it continues to be a debate that relies on political expediency, then we have once again doomed ourselves to an endless loop that offers little in the way of real progress.

John McLaurin is president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents the owners and operators of marine terminals and U.S. and foreign vessels operating in the Pacific Basin.


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