I do my best to respond to reporter inquiries, usually immediately. But, when I’m in Committee meetings nonstop, it does get difficult, as I do not leave them until they conclude, with rare exceptions.
My Chief of Staff spent time explaining our calculations showing that only 20 percent of every gas tax dollar collected actually goes towards fixing roads.
Without any data or links to indicate that our research was missing critical information, the reporter of the San Jose Mercury News piece below simply implies that it is “disputed.” Well, if it is not 20 percent, what is it? Is it 15 percent? 25 percent? Aren’t journalists supposed to do a little heavy lifting, as using a disparaging adjective is a tad lazy, no? I can’t even think of an article where someone “disputed” our metrics.
The joys of teaching government how to manage taxpayer resources. When I was younger, banks offered Christmas Savings Clubs. The discipline of setting funds aside on a regular basis seems to be a lost art. But, wouldn’t it be nice if California would set funds aside in advance to repair its roads?
Why does the Capital wake up on December 1st, sees that Christmas is only a few weeks away, and realizes that it has no funds? Then Sacramento looks at the taxpayers as the source of additional funding, thanks to its misprioritizing, shaming the citizens by imposing more new taxes, acting as if the financial mismanagement was the fault of the state’s residents.
At least with the gas tax recall on the November ballot, the voters will have the chance to give a thumbs up or thumbs down. This was something that Gov. Brown promised originally, so he should not have his nose too tweaked when disgruntled citizens sign petitions for a ballot measure.
And when enough signatures were gathered to put a recall of a state senator on the ballot, the Democrats provided so much gamesmanship to delay the vote that when it finally occurred, gasoline was selling at $4 per gallon! Oops.
The Golden State’s Democrats have so badly botched providing quality roads and road maintenance. No wonder Domino’s Pizza has stepped into the vacuum (seehttps://syvnews.com/lifestyles/simplemost/domino-s-pizza-is-on-a-mission-to-fix-potholes/article_9297b782-7022-52b1-8de3-30ad1e1723cf.html).
So, why shouldn’t Caltrans start hundreds of projects and threaten to stop them if the gas tax is repealed? Sounds like a baited hook to me.
While we’re at it, why do we have to spend so much money in the Bay Area? Just look at the projects that are proposed. BART improvements and no car lane expansion? With “gas” tax proceeds? Wasn’t $6 billion for their Bay Bridge enough?
Other than that, enjoy the piece, as it does provide important details, even though it seems that the reporter may have bitten the hook.
Gas tax repeal: Billions in Bay Area transportation projects at risk
By ebaldassari |
Bay Area News Group
From Oakland to San Jose, pavement crews are already at work repairing roads and tackling long-deferred maintenance of city streets. Caltrans contractors earlier this month started grinding and repaving a 104-mile swath of Interstate 880 in the East Bay, a freeway one commuter called “the crappiest in all of California.”
All that work is partially funded from the state’s new gas taxes and registration fees, which will generate more than $3.1 billionfor Bay Area highway repairs and public transit upgrades over the next several years, along with nearly $496 million cities and counties are slated to receive this year to repair local streets.
But now, with the release of a Los Angeles Times and USC poll last month showing more than half of California voters would repeal those taxes and fees, it’s looking more likely that many of the newly funded projects are at risk of being delayed or eliminated.
One state senator, Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, has already felt the wrath of constituents who voted this month to boot him out of office over his support for the measure, called Senate Bill 1 (SB1), electing Republican Ling Ling Chang in his place.
The same coalition that led the charge against Newman submitted 963,905 signatures in April to put the SB1 repeal on the November ballot and amend the state constitution to ensure any future gas or diesel taxes, along with certain transportation fee increases, must first come before voters. The measure is expected to be certified for the ballot next week.
If it’s successful, roughly half of the recently-approved highway improvements and public transit projects in Californiacould lose funding in a battle that’s shaping up as major statewide campaign issue. Cities and counties would also see their newly-approved funding for road repairs slashed by half. Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox has already sparred with Democrats who support the measure.
Among the Bay Area projects at risk are $730 million to help extend BART to San Jose, $318.6 million for BART to buy new train cars and carry more passengers by running longer trains, $233 million for toll lanes on Highway 101, $164 million to help electrify Caltrain, $150 million for more AC Transit buses, and $67.5 million in pedestrian and bicycle improvements. Just which projects will continue and which will be delayed depends in part on how far along they are if and when the new taxes and fees are repealed, said Melissa Figueroa, a spokeswoman for the California State Transportation Agency, or CalSTA.
“Projects that are already well into construction would most likely be funded through completion – Caltrans would not leave projects under way half done, for safety reasons,” she said. “However, future projects would be delayed or deleted.”
Senate Bill 1, which was enacted last November, added 12 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline and 18 cents to a gallon of diesel fuel. It also raised registration fees, starting last January, by $25 for vehicles valued at under $5,000, $50 for vehicles between $5,000 and $25,000 and up to $175 more for the highest-end luxury cars. Starting in 2020, the state will also add $100 to the cost of registering electric vehicles. Together, the new taxes and fees are expected to generate $5.2 billion annually, money that would disappear if supporters of the repeal effort have their way.
Carl DeMaio, a San Diego talk show host and former city councilmember who launched the repeal effort, says waste and inefficiency are to blame for the rough shape of California’s roads.
He cited a disputed statistic generated by Republican state Senator John Moorlach that, prior to SB1, only 20 percent of the existing gas tax and other transportation revenues, such as registration fees, went into state road repair and new construction.
“We could fix all of our roads if we simply allocated 100 percent of gas tax revenues to roads, but the politicians will never do that because this has never been about fixing roads, but rather getting more of your money,” DeMaio said.
It’s true that not all of the money generated by the gas tax prior to SB1 went into state roads. But, that doesn’t mean the money didn’t support transportation throughout the state. Moorlach only counted roads owned by the state, such as highways, in his tally, omitting streets owned by cities or counties, which make up the majority of California’s roadways, public transit assistance, bike paths and pedestrian amenities, ports and waterways, the California Highway Patrol, DMV and airports — all of which also receive funding from the existing gas taxes and registration fees.
According to the proposed state budget, which estimates $16 billion in transportation revenue from all diesel and gas taxes, along with registration and license fees, about 57 percent of the funds will be dedicated to highway maintenance, road repairs and public transit.
Of the remainder, roughly 9.5 percent is dedicated to paying off debt related to transportation construction projects, just over 1 percent supports reducing the environmental impacts of vehicle emissions and public transit expansions, and 29 percent funds the DMV, CHP and other state agencies involved in the administration or regulation of the state’s transportation network.
Just over 3 percent is transferred to the general fund, to the Department of Agriculture and to the Department of Parks and Recreation to return revenues for gas consumed in vehicles that are used off-road, such as tractors, ATVs or jet skis.
Moorlach wasn’t available for an interview, but in a statement, he slammed Caltrans for its inefficiency: “There’s no question that Caltrans is bloated and mismanaged and is not held accountable. And a mismanaged Caltrans is doing its best to prove its critics right.”
Oakland resident Katie Sleeth shrugged off the criticism. That’s no reason to stall needed bridge, road, highway and transit improvements, she said.
“All governments are inefficient,” Sleeth said. “That’s just the system we have.”
But other residents shook their heads. Lynn Hall, of Oakland, is skeptical the extra money will actually go to roads — whether it’s highways or city and county streets.
“The roads are going to be bad anyway,” Hall said. “I don’t trust them to do a good job with that money.”
Showing the money is going to road repairs and transit projects will be a major strategy in the campaign to keep the new taxes and fees in place, said Michael Quigley, executive director for the California Alliance for Jobs, a coalition of construction unions and the companies that employ them. The lobbying group is trying to stop the repeal effort, along with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bay Area Council and chambers of commerce in major cities throughout the state, unions, local governments and others.
“The needs of California’s transportation system are great,” Quigley said. “Repealing the gas tax is only going to take away projects from communities and cost jobs statewide, resulting in more unsafe roads for all Californians.”
He’ll have his work cut out for him if recent poll results hold steady. The LA Times/USC poll released last month showed 51 percent of registered voters throughout the state supported the repeal, compared to 38 percent who favor of keeping the taxes and fees in place. Support for the new gas tax and registration fees was heavily skewed in the Bay Area, where 72 percent of voters supported it.
But, that approval drops in rural and inland areas of the state, leading Jill Darling, the poll’s survey director, to believe the repeal effort has a good chance of succeeding.
“It’s definitely not popular,” Darling said of SB1. “Even among Democrats and groups that would in general support this kind of work, it’s pretty muted.”
That’s bad news for cities like Oakland and San Jose, which have road repair backlogs of $443 million and $453.4 million, respectively.
Over the years, lack of funding has led to deferred maintenance, which makes the roads much more costly to repair, sometimes quadrupling the price to completely redo a street when preventative maintenance could have extended its life for years more, said Jim Ortbal, San Jose’s director of transportation. The last time the gas tax was increased was in 1994. And, for years, the city’s been stuck in a vicious cycle of under-funding maintenance and then overpaying for repairs, a cycle Ortbal is hoping SB1 can reverse.
“It’s essential,” he said. “It will stave off a crisis in terms of our ability to maintain the condition of our city streets.”
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