Climate-Change Carbon-Emissions Fuel ‘Fee’ Would Whack Uber and Lyft Drivers

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If the Transportation and Climate Initiative is enacted, ride sharing app drivers would feel the impact.

The proposal, a 12-state pact of New England and Mid-Atlantic states, would implement fees on fuel providers based on their carbon emissions. The revenue is supposed to go towards funding public transportation. For drivers, it would result in gasoline prices increasing by as much as 17 cents per gallon.

There are approximately 210,500 ride sharing app drivers in Massachusetts among services like Uber, Lyft, and others. While many of those are part-time drivers just looking to make some extra income, those who drive full-time earn an average of $36,486 annually, according to Indeed.

It’s a relatively low-paying job. Nationally, the average salary is $15.73 an hour with drivers driving about 19 miles on average. After expenses, however, the net pay is $11.93 an hour, according to Ridesharing Driver.

Throw in another tax in the form of steeper gas prices and the take-home pay would be lower. If a car gets 25 miles per gallon on gas, the gas- price increase would decrease the net pay of a full-time driver approximately 13 cents per hour, or $270.40 annually. If the car averages 20 miles per gallon, the gas price increase would amount to a pay cut of about 16.2 cents per hour, or $336.96 per year, assuming the driver works a standard 40 hour week 52 weeks a year.

“TCI would drive up the cost for all goods and services in Massachusetts. Everything from purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables at your local farmer’s market, to the Uber and Lyft rides, everything consumers and taxpayers use in Massachusetts would see a price increase, said Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, in an email message to New Boston Post.

That’s the line of logic 29-year-old Forrest Mulheron, a Bangor, Maine resident who drives Uber part time, takes when it comes to the Transportation and Climate Initiative fuel fee.

“It’s definitely not gonna help drivers,” he told New Boston Post in a telephone interview. “It’s just another way for the government to take our money and I’d say they’re taking more than enough as it is.”

Even though the tax would make driving more expensive, some drivers say they would not mind the increase. That includes 23-year-old Mike Hughes of East Bridgewater. Hughes is a Lyft driver in the Brockton, Massachusetts area.

“I don’t think it would dramatically affect things,” Hughes told New Boston Post in an email message. “Some people don’t know about this gas tax proposal and if you look back at the 1970s when there was a shortage of gas, people would wait in long lines just for it. If you enjoy it enough to put wear and tear on your car, a 17 cent gas tax is nothing.”

Other Uber drivers contacted by New Boston Post who did not want to speak for attribution noted that if the Transportation and Climate Initiative fuel fee is implemented in Massachusetts, then drivers in northeastern parts of Massachusetts could opt for cheaper gas in neighboring New Hampshire and Vermont.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Vermont Governor Phil Scott, both Republicans, have announced opposition to the fuel fee.

According to the Tax Foundation, the New Hampshire gas tax rate is slightly lower ($0.2383 per gallon) than the rate in Massachusetts ($0.2654 per gallon). Vermont’s ($0.3101 per gallon) is a little higher.

Support for the Transportation and Climate Initiative carbon-emissions fuel fee in Massachusetts appears low despite Governor Charlie Baker’s endorsement. In late January, a MassFiscal poll found 61 percent of Bay Staters disapprove of the proposal.