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Republicans Propose $6-billion Transportation Plan

Sacramento, CA — Assembly Republicans, led by Kristin Olsen, unveiled a plan to increase funding for road and infrastructure projects. Transportation funding is a growing debate in Sacramento as Governor Jerry Brown has called for a special session to discuss the state’s aging infrastructure.  Olsen claims the nine-point plan will maximize existing revenues and not require a tax increase.

The Assembly Republican Caucus has detailed what it feels are the major points of the plan. The information below was provided by the party:

Six Existing Funds That Will Be Utilized

 1.      40 percent of funds in California’s Cap & Trade program: $1 Billion+ annually

The goal of Cap-and-Trade is to offset the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on our environment. Californians currently pay higher prices at the pump because fuels are now included in the Cap-and-Trade Program, making Cap-and-Trade funds directly linked to transportation infrastructure. Additionally, better roads means better fuel efficiency which leads to a clear reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

2.      Existing funds from Vehicle Weight Fees: $1 Billion annually

The Vehicle Weight Fee (VWF) is a non-controversial payment made to offset the costs of damage done to our roads by heavy trucks. During the recession, VWF revenue was diverted to purposes other than road maintenance. This budget gimmick is no longer needed. It is time to put this money back toward its intended use.

3.      Invest half of the Governor’s strategic growth fund into shovel-ready roads projects: $200 Million annually

The state budget provides the Governor with $400 million a year for projects of his choosing. The Assembly Republican plan prioritizes safe roads and reduces this discretionary pot of money by half, freeing up $200 million for road projects that can quickly make a difference for Californians who use cars to get around our state.

4.      Eliminate redundancies at Caltrans: $500 Million annually

We support the non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office’s (LAO) recommendation to eliminate the 3,500 redundant positions at Caltrans. The LAO reports this will not negatively impact any construction projects.

5.      Eliminate and capture savings from 25 percent of long-term vacant state positions: $685 Million annually

There are thousands of vacant positions in state government that remain unfilled for more than six months. Until recently, the law required that any such position be eliminated. While some positions are essential and difficult to fill, the majority are not and, in fact, are intentionally kept vacant so that state agencies can capture the money and spend it elsewhere. This money is better used fixing roads than padding state bureaucracy. Our proposal is for 25 percent of these vacant positions to be eliminated, using the savings to fund transportation projects.

6.      Make a formal commitment in the State Budget General Fund to fund transportation: $1 Billion annually

The last two state budgets grew spending by $8.1 billion and $7.5 billion, respectively. Early indications are that we will have $4 billion more revenue next year. Despite this revenue surge, these budgets completely ignored the state’s transportation needs. According to the LAO, the three-year revenue forecast is such that we can fully fund Proposition 98 and the Rainy Day Fund, and still dedicate $1 billion annually to transportation. We propose doing this. Transportation is a top priority, a core function of government, and must be funded as such.

Three Policy Changes to Get Our Roads Fixed

7.      CEQA Relief for Highway Projects

Relief from abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) could reduce costs and delays associated with highway projects and move our transportation projects out of lawsuits and red tape. Under our plan, highway projects would be insulated from injunctions, like the model enacted for the Kings basketball arena. Highway projects could be expedited by prohibiting a court from staying or enjoining a project unless certain specific factors are present (threat to health and safety, Native American artifacts, etc.). If we can do it for billionaire professional sports team owners, we should be able to do it for Californians who want out of traffic gridlock and those who will be put to work on the projects. The present and future of our state economy relies on a strong transportation network that can reliably move goods and services. Building and maintaining such a network of roads, highways, and bridges should not get hung up in endless years of CEQA litigation and bureaucracy.

8.      Foster Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) for transportation projects

Removing the sunset on provisions authorizing the use of development lease agreements (aka “public-private partnerships” or P3s) for transportation projects will get roads fixed faster. Due to limited available funding for highway construction and maintenance, P3s are an attractive option for the state to most efficiently use limited resources to repair its deteriorating infrastructure. SB 2X 4 (Cogdill) (Chapter 2, Statutes of 2009) authorized Caltrans and regional transportation agencies to enter into an unlimited number of P3 agreements for a broad range of highway, road, and transit projects, through December 31, 2016.  Deleting this sunset will maintain the flexibility for Caltrans and regional agencies to leverage private investment in project design, construction, and operation.

9.      Get the politics out of transportation projects: Restore CTC Independence

Removing the California Transportation Commission (CTC) from the Executive Branch restores its status as an independent body. The CTC was created by the Legislature in 1978 as an independent body responsible for the programming and allocating of funds for the implementation of highway, passenger rail and transit improvements throughout California. The Governor’s Reorganization Plan No. 2 (GRP2) of 2012 changed the CTC from an independent agency to an entity within the newly created Transportation Agency. Keeping CTC under the control of the Secretary of Transportation frustrates meaningful oversight of the administration, and creates the potential for politicization of transportation funding decisions.