With negotiations stuck in a traffic jam of competing priorities, Gov. Jerry Brown’s new state budget offers another effort to boost California’s transportation funding by raising the gas tax paid by the state’s drivers. Gov. Brown’s plan, unveiled last week, would add $4.3 billion a year over the next decade to help pay for everything from road repairs to additional public transit.
In the summer of 2015, the governor convened a special session of the Legislature to deal with transportation funding but it finally fizzled out last fall. Now, the governor’s new proposal would set the state’s gasoline excise tax at 21.5 cents per gallon, up from his proposal last year for 18 cents per gallon. Brown’s plan continues to include a new $65 annual fee on all vehicles, as well as a $500-million infusion of cash from the state auctions of greenhouse gas pollution credits.
Democratic legislators, who say that improving aging transportation infrastructure is a top priority for 2017, have suggested a larger package. San Jose Sen. Jim Beall has authored SB1 to raise about $6 billion through an increase in the gas tax and car registration fees. “Road repairs are something that if we don’t do, it’s like an unfunded liability — it is wrecking the economy,” said Beall.
Transportation advocates say the state has a backlog of $59 billion in needed state highway repairs, and needed fixes of $71.3 billion for local streets and roads.
“It is challenging, but I’m very committed to finding the revenues to fix California’s roads,” Brown said in a news conference. “Now the question is, how do we get the votes?” added Brown. “And that involves Republicans, it involves Democrats, it involves interest groups. And we work to forge a consensus.”
While all previous efforts to raise the gas tax — which requires a supermajority vote in both houses — have failed, lawmakers are optimistic that the time is right. State Senate President Kevin de León said there is agreement between both houses of the Legislature that a transportation infrastructure plan is needed.
“My hope is that we can get it done in a bipartisan fashion because a transportation infrastructure package is a vote for continued economic growth of the middle class of California,” said de León, D-Los Angeles.
Source: LA Times
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