SACRAMENTO–Senate Republicans held a roundtable discussion with members of the media to discuss their ideas on how to jumpstart the state investment in transportation infrastructure. Joining Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-San Dimas) were Senate Republican Leader-elect Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) and Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) who unveiled a transportation infrastructure investment package that does not contain a tax increase.
The Senate Republican plan calls for increasing funding for transportation infrastructure by $2.9 billion per year with an additional $2.4 billion in one-time funds. The funding would come from the following sources:
- End the diversion of more $1 billion in transportation taxes every year. Spend this money on roads, highways and bridges.
- Repay all outstanding transportation loans to the General Fund and direct that money to transportation improvements.
- Make significant efficiency improvements at the State Department of Transportation.
- Finally, direct money from Cap and Trade funds that are related to fuel – about $1.9 billion this year alone – to fixing roads.
Earlier this year, the Senate Republican Caucus introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 7 (Huff) that would require all transportation taxes be used for transportation purposes. California drivers currently pay a cap and trade tax on gasoline. Senate Republicans propose to direct that funding to fixing California’s roads, highways, and bridges.
“This cap and trade tax on gasoline is generating a significant amount of revenue, about ten cents a gallon right now,” said Senator Huff. “This tax has generated about $1.9 billion so far, and Senate Republicans believe if Californians are forced to pay this transportation tax, it should be directed to transportation infrastructure projects.”
In the state, 87 percent of county roads have an average pavement rating of “at-risk” or “poor”. California roadways have accumulated $59 billion in needed repair and maintenance.
“Our highways are in horrible conditions. I, myself, drive up and down Highway 99 and Interstate 5 every week coming to and from Sacramento to Bakersfield. Every so often, I find myself having a problem with my car,” said Senator Fuller.
The May Revision to the budget, released by the Governor earlier this month, proposes a record spending amount of $267 billion. State spending for almost every program area in the state budget has grown significantly since the 2007-09 great recession ended, but transportation infrastructure received very little and has been the lowest priority for new state funds.
“We have $13 billion dollars more revenues than was anticipated in last year’s budget. We also have $3 billion more in cap and trade funding as a result of fuel being included in the cap,” said Senator Nguyen. “So we are talking about $16 billion dollar. Surely the Legislature could direct some of those resources to improving our state and local highway system.”
Senate Republican Caucus introduced SCA 7 (Huff) which would protect existing and future taxes for long-term commitment to transportation funding. It would ensure that future increases could only be used for construction, maintenance, and improvements to transportation infrastructure. Bonds or debts could not be paid with these funds.