The governor and Democrats in the state Legislature unveiled their transportation funding package Wednesday. They rolled out a $52 billion proposal that is entirely funded by the largest gas-tax increase in state history, a massive increase to the diesel tax, and a vehicle license fee increase that is high as $175 per vehicle.
If you thought California was already becoming unaffordable, ordinary Californians are about to be crushed with a whole new slate of taxes and fees.
California drivers cannot win under this tone-deaf proposal. Californians already pay some of the highest gas taxes in the nation. In exchange, they are driving on roads that are crumbling and commuters suffer in the worst traffic congestion in the nation with the typical driver spending three days per year sitting in traffic.
This transportation crisis is the direct result of decades of neglect by Sacramento and diverting billions of dollars from transportation funds to the state’s general fund, where the dollars are used for non-transportation purposes. Now that Sacramento has created this problem, they are asking poor and middle-income families to bail them out with the largest gas tax increase in California history. This is unacceptable.
California drivers cannot win because under this proposal there are no guarantees that even with the additional billions of transportation dollars that it will actually go towards transportation.
How many times have we heard the term “lockbox”? If past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, these dollars may again be swept into the general fund to pay for anything but transportation. Furthermore, under the Democrats’ proposal, not one dime is going toward building new roads. This means traffic congestion will only get worse – even with $5.2 billion extra every year in tax revenue for the next 10 years.
It gets worse.
The proposal from Democrats does not include critical reforms such as environmental review exemptions for fixing existing roads. It is this cumbersome environmental review process that backlogs the fixing and building of roads for many years and unnecessarily drains transportation funds. This is a common-sense reform that needs to occur to get our transportation infrastructure up to par.
There is a better way. I have introduced my own transportation funding plan that provides more funding for transportation than any other proposal on the table. The Traffic Relief and Road Improvement Act (AB 496) fixes our roads with existing money that motorists are already paying – no new taxes or fees. It is based on the core and simple principle that all transportation funds should go to transportation. Again, this is common sense.
Additionally, my proposal requires 30% of transportation funds to be used for traffic relief. In regard to structural reforms, AB 496 ensures that road repairs and maintenance occur efficiently – eliminating unnecessary and costly bureaucratic processes – and provides more accountability.
It is time that elected officials take responsibility for the problems they’ve created and fund transportation infrastructure with dollars that motorists are already paying at the pump. We do not need a regressive gas tax that makes California unaffordable for middle-class families to live and work here.
The governor has imposed a Thursday deadline to get a transportation deal done. Call your state elected officials and urge them to reject the largest gas tax in state history and support our responsible plan. It fixes our roads with existing transportation funds that we, as hardworking Californians, already pay to Sacramento.
Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Kern County) is vice chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee and serves as the chief Republican whip.