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California Lawmakers Approve Taxes and Fees for Roads

California lawmakers on Thursday approved a $5-billion-a-year plan to boost California’s gas and vehicle taxes to pay for major road repairs, handing a victory to Gov. Jerry Brown who has lobbied for years for money to fix crumbling highways and bridges.

Governor Jerry Brown was Friday’s KVML “Newsmaker of the Day”.

Brown and top Democratic lawmakers overcame strong opposition from environmentalists and anti-tax crusaders to muster the two-thirds support required to raise taxes.

“Tonight we did something,” Brown told reporters in a hallway news conference outside his office. “There’s real money and people can afford it…It helps bring jobs. It helps bring prosperity.”

Republicans blasted the plan to ask for more money from taxpayers in a state that already has a high tax burden. Some questioned why the state would raise taxes to repair its existing infrastructure without adding more lanes of traffic as the population swells.

On Wednesday, Brown joined a group of labor, business, transportation and local leaders from across the state to call on the Legislature to pass SB 1 – the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017- co-authored by Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and Assemblymember Jim L. Frazier Jr. (D-Discovery Bay).

“Fixing our roads is basic,” said Governor Brown at the rally on the East Steps of the State Capitol. “If you don’t do it now it gets more expensive next year and the year after. California is united and we are united together to build a great state, and you build a great state by investing in our roads.”

The legislation, announced last week, is backed by a broad coalition of supporters and will invest $52.4 billion over the next decade to fix roads, freeways and bridges in communities across California and put more dollars toward transit and safety.

In recent days, state and legislative leaders joined city and county officials in Riverside, Concord, Fresno, Bakersfield, San Diego and Los Angeles to build support for the landmark transportation investment package and Governor Brown testified at Senate and Assembly hearings on the legislation earlier this week.

According to Brown, SB 1 will cost most drivers less than $10 a month and comes with strict new accountability provisions to ensure funds can only be spent on transportation. The following funds will be split equally between state and local investments over a ten-year horizon:

Fix Local Streets and Transportation Infrastructure (50 percent):

– $15 billion in “Fix-It-First” local road repairs, including fixing potholes
– $7.5 billion to improve local public transportation
– $2 billion to support local “self-help” communities that are making their own investments in transportation improvements
– $1 billion to improve infrastructure that promotes walking and bicycling
– $825 million for the State Transportation Improvement Program local contribution
– $250 million in local transportation planning grants.

Fix State Highways and Transportation Infrastructure (50 percent):

– $15 billion in “Fix-it-First” highway repairs, including smoother pavement
– $4 billion in bridge and culvert repairs
– $3 billion to improve trade corridors
– $2.5 billion to reduce congestion on major commute corridors
– $1.4 billion in other transportation investments, including $275 million for highway and intercity-transit improvements.

Ensure Taxpayer Dollars Are Spent Properly with Strong Accountability Measures:

– Constitutional amendment to prohibit spending the funds on anything but transportation
– Inspector General to ensure Caltrans and any entities receiving state transportation funds spend taxpayer dollars efficiently, effectively and in compliance with state and federal requirements
– Provision that empowers the California Transportation Commission to hold state and local government accountable for making the transportation improvements they commit to delivering
– Authorization for the California Transportation Commission to review and allocate Caltrans funding and staffing for highway maintenance to ensure those levels are reasonable and responsible
– Authorization for Caltrans to complete earlier mitigation of environmental impacts from construction, a policy that will reduce costs and delays while protecting natural resources.

The press release issued by Brown’s office included the following sentence, “Guided by the principles set forth by President Ronald Reagan when he increased the federal gas tax in 1982, this transportation investment package is funded by everyone who uses our roads and highways.

The “Newsmaker of the Day” is heard every weekday morning at 6:45, 7:45 and 8:45 on AM 1450 and FM 102.7 KVML.