Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
June 23, 2016 – 4:24 PM

  • Gov. Brown wants to raise taxes for more repairs
  • However, public is opposed to paying more at pump
  • Republicans demanding CEQA reforms

California’s highways are in bad shape and getting worse every day, with a backlog of deferred maintenance totaling tens of billions of dollars.

Gov. Jerry Brown says we should be spending $8 billion a year on repairs, but are actually spending less than a third of that, which means the backlog is growing by nearly $6 billion.

Oddly, however, the repair program Brown is offering to the Legislature would average just $3.6 billion a year, and much would be spent on transit or shared with local governments. All in all, highways would get just $16.2 billion over 10 years, a fraction of the unmet maintenance needs.

Even were the Legislature to go along, therefore, the backlog would continue to grow, meaning the highways would become even rougher and more dangerous. We might even displace No. 1 New Jersey as having the nation’s absolutely worst roadways.

California motorists are already paying some of the nation’s highest gasoline taxes, and while polls indicate they want highway spending to increase, they’re not willing to pay higher taxes for it – an illogical attitude that permeates the issue.

Brown’s $36 billion, 10-year fix-it plan includes a $65 annual fee on all vehicles, an increase in gas taxes by freezing the periodic adjustments tied to price that have recently dropped taxes sharply, boosting diesel fuel taxes paid mostly by truck operators, and pumping in $500 million from cap-and-trade carbon emission auctions.

The latter is somewhat ironic, since the last auction fell flat and revenue may be close to zero for years to come.

So, one might ask, given that our gas taxes are already quite high, and under Brown’s plan, highways would deteriorate more, is it worth doing?

To read expanded column, click here.