The C.D.U.’s Bavarian state sister party made a strange campaign promise for the Sept. 2013 election that they would levy a toll on foreign drivers entering Bavaria. It seemed this would be illegal in the E.U., in addition to unethical. The C.S.U. said the country of Austria was doing it, so why couldn’t the state of Bavaria? During the sole televised debate between the two biggest parties’ candidates—in Germany’s deliberately foreshortened campaign, kept brief by electoral laws—Angela Merkel quietly said “no” to the foreigner toll. Horst Seehofer (C.S.U.) swore his party wouldn’t sign a new federal coalition agreement with the C.D.U. without it.
The C.S.U. was re-elected in Bavaria and might be able to rule alone there with no coalition partner (they’ve been in charge in Bavaria since 1946).
In a surprise move, after the German elections a decision was announced from the E.U. transport commissioner Siim Kallas (libertarianesque Estonian Reform Party) indicating Brussels might allow such a state tax on foreigners! In the E.U.! Though they backtracked afterward, it still appeared the P.K.W.-Maut might be allowable were Bavaria to make all drivers entering the state pay a toll and then selectively refund it via the annual tax paid by car owners. That method would miss refunds to numerous deserving Bavarians—electric cars and other environmentally friendly cars already get car tax refunds for example—and the C.S.U. was scratching their heads about how to announce that those car owners wouldn’t be taxed like a foreigner. German consumer protection advocates and apparently a study by the country’s equivalent of A.A.A. (A.D.A.C., the General German Automobilclub) said the proposed toll’s stated intended benefit for infrastructure construction was disingenuous because it would create more administration costs than revenue; if this is true it makes the toll appear more racist. The toll would also irritate non-Bavarian Germans, many of whom were already looking askance at the Bavarian conservative politicians’ attempt to stoke up Ausländerfeindlichkeit, hatred of foreigners, and surf it to power.
Thomas Oppermann (S.P.D.) pointed out that, in the grosse Koalition negotiations to form the new government, the C.D.U. had firmly refused the S.P.D.’s campaign promise to inflict new taxes on the rich yet it would allow this new tax on people who aren’t wealthy.
Investigating the issue in more detail, on 07 Nov 2013 ZDF heute journal interviewed a traffic-expert pundit professor who estimated Germany needed ~7 billion euros more per year to fix its road infrastructure, i.e. more than doubling their current expenditures. He particularly used the example of bridges.
Reporting on 07 Nov 2013 seemed to indicate the debate had expanded to include introducing car tolls on all German autobahns, perhaps merely responsible political debating about any potential reforms or perhaps what it might take to weasel in the Bavarian foreigner disincentive under current rules. The numbers are still unclear, with the C.S.U.-led federal transportation ministry estimating much higher revenues from new car tolls than others estimated. ZDF listed approximate annual numbers from countries who’ve already introduced an autobahn car toll:
Austria. Car toll: 390 million euros, truck toll: 1,100 million euros; 800 million euros spent on annual road construction and maintenance. About half the car toll revenues come from foreign drivers. The Austrian car toll is about 80 euros/year, for residents and foreigners alike.
Switzerland. Car toll: 300 million euros, truck toll: 1,250 million euros; 1,250 million euros spent on annual road construction and maintenance. About 1/3 of the car toll revenues come from foreign drivers. The Swiss car toll is about 33 euros/year for residents and foreigners alike.
Germany. Truck toll: 4,600 million euros; ~5,000 million euros spent on annual road construction and maintenance. Estimates for revenues from an autobahn car toll vary between 350 and 700 million annually (the low number is from the A.D.A.C. drivers’ association and the high number is from the C.S.U.-led transportation ministry).
Austria and Switzerland said they spent 7% to 12% of the autobahn car toll revenues on its administrative costs. In Germany administrative costs could be much higher because of the C.S.U.’s plan to return the money to Bavarian drivers by offsetting it from their car tax. The toll might thus merely bring a bad reputation, highly-public permission for anti-foreigner sentiment and at most a few hundred million euros to fix a budget gap of billions.
Update on 11 Nov 2013: The two parties agreed to temporarily stop discussing a new car toll in their grosse Koalition negotiations.
Update on 27 Nov 2013: Austria and Holland threatened to sue Germany before the European Court of Justice if Germany implements the C.S.U.’s car toll on foreign drivers. The negotiated grosse Koalition agreement presented on Wed. 27 Nov 2013 said yes to the toll if it violated no E.U. rules and negatively impacted no German drivers.
Update on 01 Dec 2013: Protesters walked carrying signs on the Bavarian and Austrian sides of the Inntal A12 autobahn, demonstrating against car tolls. Austria had announced it would create a new checkpoint there to verify that drivers had paid its car toll, probably in reaction to Bavarian politicians’ insistence on an anti-foreigner car toll. People living on both sides of the border fear cars will start filling up local roads trying to avoid the highway tolls. Strolling on the autobahn with friends and neighbors looked rather pleasant, and the Bavarian and Austrian mountains there are so beautiful.
(Pair ZOH! nen croft vog EN m OW! t.)