Californians pay the price for the state’s deferred infrastructure maintenance; it’s estimated that crumbling roads cost CA motorists $762 a year per driver.
With a massive $130 billion backlog in road repairs, California needed to act independently of Congress to address its mounting infrastructure problems. The state found a landmark solution in SB 1 — The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.
SB1 invests $5.4 billion annually over the next decade to fix California’s transportation system. It will address a backlog of repairs and upgrades, while ensuring a more sustainable travel network for the future. Roads will be fixed, unsafe bridges and overpasses will be repaired, traffic congestion will be reduced, safely will be improved, public transit will be expanded, and tens of thousands of jobs will be created.
Yet despite all the benefits that SB 1 will bring to the state over the next 10 years, efforts to repeal the measure are underway — based upon misleading assertions.
A key part of SB 1 is a fuel tax increase that helps to raise $54 billion, largely for road repairs. The “gas tax” measure gathered support because of its ability to address California’s massive maintenance backlog. Despite this, Assemblyman Travis Allen is leading a repeal campaign using the claim that the gas tax increase is flawed because it won’t build new roads and freeway lanes or ease traffic congestion. Given the clear repair goals of the legislation, Politifact says Allen’s characterization of the measure is misleading. The nonpartisan fact-checking organization ruled that Allen’s statements distort the goal of the gas tax increase and found his assertions problematic. In reality, 65% of the new tax money goes to repair projects, and 35% can be spent on “expanded capacity,” including highway and transit improvements. $250 million will be available each year to improve congested corridors across the state — and that money can also pay for new freeway lanes, according to Mark Dinger of the Department of Transportation.
A San Diego businessman is also aiming for a repeal. John Cox argues that California already collects enough in fuel taxes for roads. “We want infrastructure, but we want it done efficiently and without waste,” says Cox. While conceding that, “People don’t object to fixing roads, by any stretch,” Cox makes problematic claims that the new tax doesn’t provide for construction of any new roads. In fact, the measure sets aside $100 million annually for the expansion of local roads.
These misguided repeal efforts still need to gather enough signatures to qualify for the November 2018 ballot, but before either of these endeavors have the potential to negatively affect SB 1, voters will have the opportunity to vote in favor of a constitutional amendment to protect SB 1 funds.
The California Transportation Taxes and Fees Lockbox Amendment (ACA 5) puts in place strict provisions to ensure SB 1 taxes and fees are spent solely on transportation-related projects and not used “for any other purposes” or “any other fund.” One of the amendment’s authors, Sen. Josh Newman said, “Given the urgency of the transportation and infrastructure repair backlog before California… ACA 5 provides voters with the important assurance that their hard-earned money will be spent in a responsible and fiscally prudent manner.” On the ballot for voter approval in June 2018, ACA 5 ensures that revenues raised by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 are safeguarded to invest in needed transportation infrastructure to benefit all Californians.