Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
August 17, 2015

  • Roadwork, Medi-Cal and carbon fees big issues
  • Taxes for transportation and health care need GOP votes
  • Republicans, pressured by anti-tax groups, are leery

The Legislature reconvened Monday after a monthlong summer recess and immediately focused on what most members like best: spending money.

The 2015-16 state budget was enacted in June, but three big financial issues were postponed – raising and spending billions of dollars on transportation, raising and spending billions more on the Medi-Cal program of health care for the poor, and spending about $3 billion in “cap-and-trade” carbon emission fees.

There’s no shortage of proposals on all three, but as they multiply, packages that can win the requisite number of votes become more elusive.

The most difficult of the three is transportation. Gov. Jerry Brown called a special session on repairing the state’s deteriorating highways, but almost immediately, local government officials said if fees or taxes are raised, they want an equal share of the money for their roads and streets.

Then the folks who run buses, trolleys and other public transit systems said they, too, want some of the money for their projects.

Suddenly, instead of the $59 billion in roadwork cited by Brown, the issue ballooned into $78 billion in local roadway repairs and $72 billion in transit “maintenance and expansion needs.”

It was difficult, bordering on the impossible, to put together a package just for state highways, but now it’s a $209 billion nut to be cracked.

Each transportation segment has its pressure group and cadre of friendly legislators, but the overarching factor is what appears to be solid opposition by Republicans to new taxes, which would need two-thirds legislative votes.

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