Recently received an email from our CA District 37 Senator John Moorlach on our water crisis and transportation crisis in CA. I know at our (SOC912 and Saddleback CRA) recent roundtable, the topic of most concern was the water crisis. But, apparently there is a transportation or roads crisis in CA, too. Our roads are in much needed repair and maintenance. Governor Brown called a special session of the legislature to figure out how they (Democrats) can increase our taxes even though we are buying less gasoline due to gasoline efficiency. The politicians are having problems too regarding water because we’re conserving our usage but being charged more. These politicians are desperate to find more money but they won’t look at how to curb spending by becoming more efficient and eliminate waste (which some Republicans are pushing).
I invite you to click on a few links below and read up as to what they are planning on doing – raise taxes, justify and build more high density living, etc. Absolutely fascinating how politicians work. The majority party (Democrats) keeps raising taxes as a solution. So do the Republicans – They go-along-to-get along or compromise-or–we-won’t-get-anything-done and refuse to stick their necks out for the taxpayer, the middle class families.
Roads: State spends more, gets less
Special session sparks fight between tax hikes and Caltrans reform
SACRAMENTO — When the Legislature returns from its break on Aug. 17, the focus will turn to transportation funding. Virtually everyone — Democrats, Republicans, labor unions, taxpayer groups and the business community — agree California’s roads are a mess and need substantial investments to keep drivers and the economy moving.
Democratic leaders are setting the stage for tax and fee increases to fund needed improvements. The entire transportation special session is, arguably, a ploy to find revenue. The state passed a budget on time, but neglected to adequately fund this key area — relegating it to a session that revolves around “revenue enhancements.” Democrats also are focused on prodding Californians out of their cars through the bullet train and “transit-oriented development.”
By contrast, Republicans are pushing a variety of reform-oriented measures designed to speed up transportation funding and root out inefficiencies in the California Department of Transportation. Some Republicans — whose votes are needed to raise taxes, given the two-thirds majority vote requirement — have implied a willingness to consider some fee or tax increases in exchange for passing some of these bills. (In particular, they might OK higher fees on electric vehicles given the current funding system is based on gasoline usage.)
There’s also a push for both approaches. More revenues and reform are “not mutually exclusive,” said Jim Earp, who represents the California Alliance for Jobs, a union and contractor group. “If we don’t get some of the reforms passed, we don’t get more of the money, either.”
A recent survey by a national transportation research group found California metropolitan areas dominating its list of the worst roads in the nation. In the San Francisco Bay Area, TRIP found 74 percent of the roadways in poor condition. Greater Los Angeles received the ignoble second spot, with 73 percent in bad shape. San Diego was No. 8, with 51 percent of its roadways in poor condition.
But there’s good reason to look at the reform issue first. Republican Sen. John Moorlach of Orange County recently pointed to statistics showing how the state spends its current resources: California spends more than a half-million dollars to build each mile of freeway, triple the national average. The state spends more than four times the national average on highway maintenance and administration. No wonder the state’s roads and freeways have tens of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance.
Furthermore, California’s gas prices — in part due to its special government-mandated formulation and also because of its fourth-highest gas-tax rates in the country — are about 70 cents a gallon more than the national average.
By many estimates, Caltrans is a troubled agency. Last year, the Legislative Analyst’s Office found its infrastructure-support program massively overstaffed, lacking in accountability and mired in inefficiency. The staffing problem alone resulted in costs of a half-billion dollars annually or more that could be directed to actual road building.
Many Republicans also question priorities. Is a high-speed rail system the best use of $68-billion-plus in proposed transportation funds given current needs?
Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, introduced a measure for the state to grant localities block grants to speed up local road funding. She told me local agencies are far more nimble and efficient. Other GOP bills would guarantee transportation taxes are used solely for transportation; earmark some cap-and-trade funds to streets and roads; ask Californians whether to freeze high-speed rail funding and direct funds toward road and freeway projects; and promote more privatization. Other bills are designed to examine Caltrans’ inefficiencies and reform CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), which is blamed for slowing construction by encouraging lawsuits.
When he announced the special session, Gov. Jerry Brown took a slap at those who oppose higher taxes. But California spends the most tax dollars and gets the least bang for its transportation buck. Maybe he should fix that first.
Greenhut is the San Diego Union-Tribune’s California columnist. Write to him atsteven.greenhut@