By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 – 8:03 am
During Jerry Brown’s first governorship three-plus decades ago, no political issue burned more hotly than transportation, particularly a marked slowdown in highway construction.
Critics accused Brown and his transportation director, Adriana Gianturco, of an anti-highway bias. A pro-highway Legislature eventually passed a new transportation planning bill aimed at diluting the administration’s authority to decide which projects would be built and when.
However, no successor to Brown significantly increased highway construction. Meanwhile, maintenance of aging highways gobbled up more and more gasoline tax money, which became a stagnant source of revenue as cars became more efficient and used less fuel per mile.
Out of sheer frustration, local governments began asking their voters for sales tax hikes to finance highway construction.
Furthermore, the state turned to general obligation bonds to finance what projects it did build, rather than increase gas taxes – part of a larger partisan stalemate in the Capitol over taxes.
The effect was that the gas tax and other forms of making users pay, such as tolls, license fees and transit fare boxes, bore a steadily decreasing portion of the costs of providing transportation, as a new report from the Tax Foundation underscores.
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