Opponents of Gov. Brown’s transportation plan say road money has been misused in the past — they’re wrong according to the LA Times
| LA Times
“The chief argument against raising taxes on motorists to pay for road repairs is that Sacramento Democrats can’t be trusted.
They have a rotten history, Republicans contend, of stealing the drivers’ tax money and spending it on nontransportation goodies.
And that argument is basically bunkum.
It’s a convenient excuse to vote against unpopular tax hikes. It plays well with the public’s perpetual-but-rising mistrust of government. And more than that, it feeds the natural desire of people to make someone else pay for things they want.
Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to patch up roads — and correct past mistakes — before term limits oust him after next year.
Brown admits he didn’t pay enough attention to road construction his first time as governor from 1975 to 1983. In fact, many blame Brown for starting the erosion of our once-superb highway system.
“I didn’t realize how much our roads and infrastructure … cost,” Brown said in a rare gubernatorial appearance before a legislative committee Monday. “Since that time there has been a continued deterioration.”
Brown also noted the irony of it all: “When I was governor [the first time], it was the Republicans who were beating down my door for a gas tax. That time, they wanted to do 5 cents. I said, ‘No, we’ll let you have 2.’ So the shoe is on the other foot now.”
“The red line, $8 billion going to $9.2 billion — that is the [annual] needs. Here’s what we’re spending, down here at $2.5 billion. That’s a gap. What I’m telling you is whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, or a man or a woman, that gap is real … a huge gap that is getting bigger. It’s a very simple proposition. Pay now or pay later — and pay a hell of a lot more.”
Brown and Democratic legislative leaders are proposing to raise motorists’ taxes by $5.2 billion annually.
They want to increase the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and diesel by 20 cents. They’d hike the diesel sales tax by 4 percentage points. There’d be a new annual fee on vehicles based on their worth, ranging from $25 to $175. And electric cars that don’t burn gas would be assessed $100 annually.
Here’s how all that would be spent: 65% on fixing state and local roads, 20% for transit, a portion for improving truck access around ports and some for bicycle and pedestrian lanes.
Highway funding had always been financed strictly by user fees — taxes at the pump, truck weight fees, registrations — until 2000. The state was rolling in money so Gov. Gray Davis decided to spend $2 billion from the general fund on one-time transportation projects.
Whoops! The general fund started running short. So two years later, the general fund “borrowed” back $1.2 billion from Caltrans, which got the money as a gift in the first place. The state still owes $706 million. Under Brown’s legislation, it would be paid back in three years.
Then there are the truck weight fees. Lobbied by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, voters in 2006 voted to borrow nearly $20 billion for transportation infrastructure. Those bonds were to be paid off by — big mistake — the general fund, which feeds off income, sales and business taxes.
But when the recession hit and the general fund was bleeding tens of billions in red ink, Democrats grabbed $1 billion annually in weight fees and used the money to repay the transportation bonds. But it was still being spent on transportation.”
….Continue reading @ LA Times
Could California Use Existing Money For Road Repairs?
“Why not use current money to pay for California’s crumbling roads and bridges?
Republican state lawmakers say that approach would be far better than the controversial gas tax hike proposed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and top state Democrats.
Gas tax revenue has historically funded road repairs in the state, but has declined as cars have become more fuel efficient. That, in turn, has left California with a huge backlog of road repairs.
Speaking outside the state Capitol on Wednesday, Republican State Assembly Leader Chad Mayes said Sacramento has a history of diverting transportation dollars. He cited the $1.1 billion in truck weight fees, some of which previously funded road repairs, but was diverted to pay off debt for new transportation projects.
“That’s the problem today,” Mayes said. “We have enough money to properly fund our transportation. But they’ve taken that money and spent it on a whole bunch of other projects that these politicians in Sacramento have wanted to.”
Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong of Bakersfield said the state GOP proposal, AB 496, would raise enough money to repair roads without requiring any tax increases. It would draw on existing revenue including the $3 billion the state collects annually in vehicle sales tax revenue, money that now goes to the general fund.
Taking that money, however, would lead to deep cuts in social services, said State Transportation Agency Director Brian Kelly.
“It would impact the general fund by about $3 billion,” Kelly said. “And, so, where are you going to take it from? Are we going to shut down the UCs? Are we going to take it out of education. Are we going to stop providing health care for folks. I mean, you’ve got to make those kind of decisions.”
The Brown Administration’s tax proposal would raise the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon, the diesel tax by 16 cents per gallon and impose a new fee based on the value of a driver’s vehicle. It would also place a $100 charge on emission-free vehicles.
In a February report, the nonpartisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office recommended increasing taxes and fees to meet the state’s road repair needs.
“As the Legislature considers various sources of revenue for a transportation funding package, we think a good approach is to focus on increasing existing taxes and fees on fuels and vehicles to maintain the state’s general approach to having users of the transportation system pay for the associated costs,” the report said.
Brown has said California has $59 billion in deferred maintenance on state highways and $78 billion on local streets and roads.
California last raised its gas tax in 1994.