According to a press release issued by the office of Governor Jerry Brown, the governor signed the Transportation Bill into law Friday, April 28.
“Moving to fill potholes, smooth thousands of miles of pavement, repair bridges and strengthen public transportation, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed a package of legislation to improve transportation and create jobs in communities across California,” the press release reported.
Brown and the legislature have come under fire by many thanks to the plan which increases the gas tax by 12 cents on the gallon with a 17 cent variable excise tax, an excise tax on diesel fuel of 20 cents per gallon and a four percentage point sales tax on diesel. Under the legislation, Electric cars would pay a $100 annual fee and all residents will pay a new annual vehicle fee ranging from $25 for cars valued at under $5,000 to $175 for cars worth $60,000 or more.
Lake Elsinore Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, who strongly opposed the tax, announced last week that she sent an official letter to California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra calling for an investigation of apparent quid pro quo-inspired vote trading, in order to pass Senate Bill 1, possibly violating several state and federal laws.
“I am for working toward a solution and understand the need for compromise, but there is a big difference between compromise and bribery,” Melendez said. “The governor, Speaker Rendon and President pro Tem de Leon doled out 1 billion tax payer dollars in deals to buy a handful of legislators’ votes to pass their gas tax. That’s not ethical, and I believe, if the attorney general actually looks into this, SB 1 will be found illegal.”
According to Melendez, leading up to the vote on SB 1, there were numerous reports of members of the legislature in both the state Senate and State Assembly actively seeking “deals” to earn their support of the tax increase. The same day SB 1 was brought to a vote, Senate bills 132 and 496 both were amended with language from the widely-reported “deals” struck to earn these legislators’ votes.
“The arrangements made were for those legislators to support SB 1 and in exchange SB 132 and SB 496 will pass with their predetermined deals. This arrangement appears to be a standard quid pro quo exchange, which has been made clear by these members’ public statements about the evolution of their decision making and their rationale for voting for SB 1,” she said.
Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) called the signing of Senate Bill 1 which is a $5.2 billion annual tax increase that will grow over time and has no sunset date, “A lemon of a gas and car tax hike.”
“We need better roads and those can be fixed without raising taxes,” Bates wrote in an email statement to Valley News. “Yet, Capitol Democrats continue a broken system that diverts transportation dollars away from our roads, imposes a new car tax, and worse, hits us with a punishing record gas tax increase. This tax hike particularly hurts Californians struggling to make ends meet.”
According to the press release issued by the governor’s office, Brown said the legislation would “put thousands of people to work” and “strengthen the economy.”
“Safe and smooth roads make California a better place to live and strengthen our economy,” he said.
Senator Jeff Stone (R-Temecula) had spoken out against the bill, saying it would increase taxes on the people of California who already pay the highest taxes in the nation, make it more expensive to register your car, by an average of $48 each year and will increase the tax on diesel fuel which will lead to higher shipping costs and add to the cost of food, clothes and medicine.
“Senate Bill 1 increases taxes on the people of California who already pay the highest taxes in the nation,” he said. “Who does this tax hike hurt? Not the coastal elite of San Francisco and Los Angeles who have shorter commutes and much more access to public transportation. It hurts the poor. It hurts the middle class. It hurts small-business owners. It hurts those Californians, especially in Inland and rural areas, who often must drive long distances to get to their jobs. Hard working Californians already pay taxes that are supposed to fix our roads.”
Those who supported the tax laid blame on Washington and applauded the governor’s signing of the bill.
“While Washington can barely get its act together, in California we stepped up to address one of the most pressing concerns facing our residents. This plan is fiscally responsible and will improve the quality of life for all Californians while creating jobs. Our roads will be safer and our cities and towns will be better connected to each other – finally bringing our transportation infrastructure into the 21st century,” said Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, (D-Los Angeles) said SB 1 would make the roads better and safer and help make commutes shorter.
“Supporting SB 1 required a combination of common sense, political courage, and concern for the Californians who drive on our roads and bridges. Now we owe it to the people of California to perform the oversight and do the due diligence that will ensure the transportation projects SB 1 funds are completed in the timely and efficient manner our constituents deserve,” he said.
Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) said that the state had “neglected our state and local transportation needs” and that the state’s roads are “falling apart” and bridges are in “desperate need” of repair.
“After two years of visiting every area of the state, I have heard people’s concerns about commuting to work, running errands or just getting their kids to soccer practice,” he said. “Transportation is integral to our quality of life and SB 1 is the comprehensive funding package that will help repair our state highways and local streets and roads, while also expanding our travel options with funding for public transit. With Governor Brown’s signature on SB 1 we can finally improve California’s transportation infrastructure.”
According to the press release issued by the governor’s office, the legislative package will cost most drivers less than $10 a month and includes strict accountability provisions to ensure the funds can only be spent on transportation. The new funding will allow Caltrans to make major repairs to California’s transportation infrastructure including 17,000 miles of pavement, 500 bridges and 55,000 culverts over the next 10 years. The package will also fund huge investments in repairing local streets and roads. The package also provides historic levels of public transportation funding – roughly double what was provided by Proposition 1B in 2006.
For Stone, today’s action by the governor boils down to one thing.
“California does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem,” he said.
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 – double the existing funding levels
$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, SCA 5 for voter approval on the June 2018 ballot, 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 transportation investment package is funded – over a 10-year horizon – by everyone who uses roads and highways, in the following ways:
$7.3 billion by increasing diesel excise tax 20 cents Nov. 1, 2017.
$3.5 billion by increasing diesel sales tax to 5.75 percent Nov. 1, 2017.
$24.4 billion by increasing gasoline excise tax 12 cents Nov. 1, 2017.
$16.3 billion from an annual transportation improvement fee based on a vehicle’s value starting Jan. 1, 2018.
$200 million from an annual $100 Zero Emission Vehicle fee starting July 1, 2020.
$706 million in General Fund loan repayments.
For full text of the bills, visit: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.